The Darwin D. Martin House Complex, also known as the Darwin Martin House National Historic Landmark, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1903 and 1905. Located at 125 Jewett Parkway in Buffalo, New York, it is considered to be one of the most important projects from Wright's Prairie School era, and ranks along with The Guggenheim in New York City and Fallingwater in Pennsylvania among his greatest works.
The Martin House Complex was the home of Darwin D. Martin, a businessman, and his wife Martin and his brother, William E. Martin, were co-owners of the E-Z Stove Polish Company based in Chicago. In 1902 William commissioned Wright to build him a home in Oak Park, the resultant William E. Martin House built in 1903. Upon viewing his brother's home Martin was significantly impressed to visit Wright's Studio, and persuaded Wright to view his property in Buffalo, where he planned to build two houses.
Martin was instrumental in selecting Wright as the architect for the Larkin Administration Building, in downtown Buffalo, Wright's first major commercial project, in 1904. Martin was the secretary of the Larkin Soap Company and consequently Wright designed houses for other Larkin employees William R. Heath and Walter V. Davidson. Wright also designed the E-Z Stove Polish Company's Factory built in 1905.
The complex exemplifies Wright's Prairie School ideal and is comparable with other notable works from this period in his career, such as the Robie House in Chicago and the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois. Wright was especially fond of the Martin House design, referring to it for some 50 years as his "opus", and calling the complex "A well-nigh perfect composition".
The Complex is located within the Parkside East Historic District of Buffalo, which was laid out by renowned American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in 1876. Darwin Martin purchased the land in 1902. Construction began in 1903, and Wright signed off on the project in 1907. The original complete Martin House Complex was 29080 ft2 (2700 Sq mi).
The Martin House
Built between 1904 and 1905 the Martin House is distinguished from Wright's other prairie style houses by its unusually large size and open plan, and is one of the largest built. Martin had imposed no budget and Wright is believed to have spent close to $300,000. By comparison Martin's brother's house was in the vicinity of $5000, and the Ladies' Home Journal design quoted at $7000. On the ground floor a library, dining room, and living room all open into each other, with the dining room continuing out to a large covered porch. The porch at the east end is balanced by the porte-cochere at the opposite end. On the second floor there are eight bedrooms, four bathrooms, and a sewing room. The Martin House is located at the south end of the complex, at 125 Jewett Parkway, Buffalo.
Following the loss of the family fortune, due to The Wall Street Crash of 1929, the Great Depression, and subsequently Darwin Martin's death in 1935, the family abandoned the house in 1937. Martin's son, D.R. Martin, had attempted to donate the house to the city or the university to be used as a library but his offer was rejected. By 1937 the complex had already begun to deteriorate, the walls at the front of the house were crumbling, and the conservatory hadn't been used for several years due to a leak in the heating system.