Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House: Beyond The Architecture

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The drive to Parkside, Buffalo’s first suburb designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, a hop, skip and a jump away from Hertel, is bound to leave you astounded. And rightly so, because the sight is one of magnificent opulence. Pardon me, “organic” magnificent opulence.

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For it is in this historic neighborhood, at the conjuncture of Jewett Parkway and Summit Avenue that Frank Lloyd Wright’s celebrated Darwin D. Martin house stands in all its glory.

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Completed in 1907 (yes, nineteen-o-seven), the six historic structures spread over a sprawling 29,000 square feet exemplify Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy about organic architecture, and his now-famous quote “form and function are one.”

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But there is more to the Darwin Martin House than meets the eye. Behind this perfect-prairie facade lies the dedication and hard work of volunteers – almost 400 of them. They could be serving as your docents or chaperones, helping you pick out a souvenir from the beautifully curated pieces of the museum gift store, or simply fluffing the cushions in the main living room (Frank Lloyd Wright cushions, pretty big deal!).

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As a new volunteer at Darwin-Martin House myself, I can first-handedly vouch for the appreciation that the board and the staff has towards all of their volunteers. Be it the Director of Volunteers agreeing to chat with me for the blog, proudly beaming when telling me that her volunteers are the face of this organization and the most rewarding aspect of her job; or the Director of Retail Operations giving me a tour of the gift shop, narrating the story of every single art piece or souvenir that he offers in the store – it does not take long for one to realize why 400 people devote their time to this Buffalo monument (after all we do have a lot of options).

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So next time when you are on the tour, look beyond the architecture. Stop by the museum store to chat with the retail-store volunteers, ask your chaperones and docents for their stories. I promise you will not be disappointed!

Special thanks to Angela Laviano-Hamister and Joseph Incao for their precious time and cooperation.

Pictures: DarwinMartinHouse.org

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House is currently in Phase V of an expansive restoration project estimated to cost $50 million, out of which $40 million has already been raised.

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