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Darwin D. Martin and Frank Lloyd Wright: Timeline and Photos

A guide to collections and other materials held by the UB University Archives
Last Updated: Aug 10, 2020 8:28 AM

 

  • 1865  Darwin D. Martin is born in Madison County, New York.
  • 1867  Frank Lloyd Wright is born in Richland Center, Wisconsin.
  • 1869  Isabelle Reidpath, the future wife of Darwin D. Martin is born in Buffalo, New York.
  • 1878  (September 2) Darwin D. Martin begins working under his brother Louis Frank Martin for the Larkin Company in New York City.
  • 1879  Darwin D. Martin, aged thirteen, begins working at the Larkin Company in Buffalo, New York.
  • 1885  Darwin D. Martin invents the cardex organizing system.
  • 1887  Frank Lloyd Wright begins studying at the University of Wisconsin.
  • 1888  Construction begins on Darwin D. Martin's first house on Summit Avenue in Buffalo, New York.
  • 1889  Darwin D. Martin marries Isabelle Reidpath.  Frank Lloyd Wright's Home and Studio in Oak Park, Illinois is built.
  • 1890  Frank Lloyd Wright joins architectural firm Adler and Sullivan.
  • 1893 
    • ​(January 3) Darwin D. Martin becomes the Secretary of the Larkin Soap Company, replacing Elbert Hubbard.
    • Frank Lloyd Wright establishes his own practice.
  • 1896  (June 27) Dorothy Martin, daughter of Darwin and Isabelle, is born.
  • 1900  (October 3) Darwin R. Martin, son of Darwin and Isabelle, is born.
  • 1902
    • (October 29)  Darwin D. Martin meets Frank Lloyd Wright.  They would form a life-long friendship and would correspond until Martin's death.
    • (November 18)  Frank Lloyd Wright is the guest of the Martins in Buffalo.  The next day, Martin and Wright visit Niagara Falls.
    • (December 11)  Darwin D. Martin purchases the site of the Martin House Complex on the corner of Summit Avenue and Jewett Parkway.
  • 1903
    • (February) Darwin D. Martin begins planning for a Frank Lloyd Wright designed office building for the Larkin Company while discouraging the alternative plans from Larkin Company President John Larkin.  He later writes Larkin and makes his argument in favor of Wright on March 20, 1903.
    • (October 11)  Construction begins on the Barton House portion of the Darwin D. Martin House Complex.  Oscar S. Lang is selected as the contractor.
  • 1904 
    • (May 16) Construction of the stable begins.
    • (July 20)  Construction of the main house of the Darwin D. Martin House Complex begins. 
    • (October) Barton House is occupied.
Martin House complex foundation under construction July 31, 1904

Martin House complex foundation under construction, July 31, 1904

Image Identifier MS_22.5_313.1 

Martin House, pergola and conservatory exterior under construction with the Barton House in the background, August 26, 1904

Martin House, pergola and conservatory under construction with the Barton House in the background, August 26, 1904

Image Identifier MS_22.5_313.9

Exterior view of the Martin House complex under construction, August 26, 1904

Martin House complex under construction, August 26, 1904

Image Identifier MS_22.5_313.11

Exterior view of the pergola and conservatory under construction with the Barton House in the background, 1904

The pergola and conservatory under construction with the Barton House in the background, August 26, 1904

Image Identifier MS_22.5_313.13

Martin House exterior under construction, September 1904

Martin House under construction, September 1904

Image Identifier MS_22.5_313.16

Martin House construction crew posed on partially finished house, 1904

Construction crew posed on the Martin House, October 1904

Image Identifier MS_22.5_332

Martin House exterior under construction, October 9, 1904

Martin House under construction, October 9, 1904

Image Identifier MS_22.5_313.28

Exterior view of the pergola and conservatory under construction, October 16, 1904

Pergola and conservatory under construction, October 16, 1904

Image Identifier MS_22.5_313.31

Exterior view of the Martin House and pergola under construction 1904

The Martin House and pergola under construction, December 11, 1904

Image Identifier MS_22.5_313.64

Martin House exterior under construction, December 11, 1904

Martin House under construction, December 11, 1904

Image Identifier MS_22.5_313.65

Construction crew posed in the conservatory, circa 1904

Construction crew in the conservatory, circa 1904

Image Identifier MS_22.5_5.9

More images can be found below.  The entire Darwin D. Martin Photograph Collection can be found here.

 

  • 1905  (November 21) The Martin family begins moving into the house and spends their first night there.
  • 1907 (April 20) The last workman, a carpenter who had been working on the house since the beginning, finishes and construction on the Martin House is considered complete.
  • 1909  ​(February 23) Darwin D. Martin contracts with Oscar S. Lang for the construction of cottages for Reuben Palder (the Martin's houseman) and Thomas Skinner (the gardener).

 

The Martin and Reidpath families posed outside the Martin House, circa 1907

The Martin and Reidpath families, circa 1907

Image Identifier MS_22.5_11.9

Darwin D, Martin House exterior viewed from Jewett Parkway

Darwin D. Martin House viewed from Jewett Parkway

Image Identifier MS_22.5_447

Martin House and pergola exterior viewed from Summit Avenue, 1908

Martin House and pergola viewed from Summit Avenue, 1908

Image Identifier MS_22.5_F38

Floricycle garden and Martin House veranda

Floricycle garden and Martin House veranda

Image Identifier MS_22.5_458

Exterior view of the Martin House pergola and conservatory

Pergola and conservatory

Image Identifier MS_22.5_441E

Exterior view of the Martin House pergola and conservatory, 1908

Pergola and conservatory, 1908

Image Identifier MS_22.5_F18

Floricycle garden with the conservatory and Barton House

Floricycle garden with the conservatory and Barton House

Image Identifier MS_22.5_459

Exterior viiew of the Martin House conservatory and the Barton House, September 1, 1905

Conservatory and Barton House, September 1, 1905

Image Identifier MS_22.5_457

Exterior view of the Martin House conservatory and the Barton House, September 1905

Conservatory and Barton House, September 1905

Image Identifier MS_22.5_4.2

Front view of the George Barton House, 1981

Front view of the George Barton House, 1981

Image Identifier MS_22.5_1110

Martin House carriage house and garden, September 1, 1906

Carriage house and garden, September 1, 1906

Image Identifier MS_22.5_1151

Sculpture by Richard W. Bock in the Martin House garden

Sculpture by Richard W. Bock in the Martin House garden

Image Identifier MS 22.5_464

View of the garden toward the conservatory with the garden wall and Bock sculpture

View of the Martin House garden toward the conservatory, showing the garden wall and Bock sculpture

Image Identifier MS_22.5_465

Dorothy Martin Foster posed in the garden by the Bock sculpture wearing her wedding dress

Dorothy Martin Foster in the Martin House garden under the Richard W. Bock sculpture.

Image Identifier MS_22.5_11.10

Isabelle R. Martin and Cora Herrick in the Martin House garden near the greenhouse

Isabelle R. Martin and Cora Herrick in the Martin House garden near the greenhouse

Image Identifier MS_22.5_442A

Exterior view of the gardener's cottage of the Martin House Complex, 1981

Gardener's cottage, Martin House Complex, 1981

Image Identifier MS_22.5_1120

Martin House reception room with sunburst fireplace, 1907

Martin House reception room with sunburst fireplace, 1907

Image Identifier MS_22.5_1130

Dorothy Martin sitting next to the sunburst fireplace reading to Darwin R. Martin, circa 1912

Dorothy Martin reading to Darwin R. Martin in the reception room, circa 1912

Image Identifier MS_22.5_11.2

Martin House dining room, 1907

Martin House dining room, 1907

Image Identifier MS_22.5_1129

Martin House living room, circa 1969

Martin House living room, circa 1969

Image Identifier MS_22.5_1205

Martin House living room with wisteria fireplace, 1908

Martin House living room with wisteria fireplace, 1908

Image Identifier MS_22.5_F59

Bookcase in the Matrin House living room pier cluster, 1908

Bookcase in the Matrin House living room pier cluster, 1908

Image Identifier MS_22.5_F24

Darwin D. and Darwin R. Martin seated in a barrel chair in the Martin House library, 1912

Darwin D. and Darwin R. Martin seated in a barrel chair in the Martin House library, 1912

Image Identifier MS_22.5_11.3

Pergola interior as seen from the Martin House, 1908

Pergola interior as seen from the Martin House, 1908

Image Identifier MS_22.5_F15

Pergola interior view looking toward the conservatory with Winged Victory statue, 1908

Pergola interior view looking toward the conservatory with Winged Victory statue, 1908

Image Identifier MS_22.5_F44

Interior of the Martin House conservatory with Winged Victory statue, 1908

Interior of the conservatory with Winged Victory statue, 1908

Image Identifier MS_22.5_F60

Isabelle R. Martin in the conservatory near Winged Victory statue

Isabelle R. Martin in the conservatory near Winged Victory statue

Image Identifier MS_22.5_1294

More images can be found below.  The entire Darwin D. Martin Photograph Collection can be found here.

  • 1923 
    • (June 14) Dorothy Martin, daughter of Darwin and Isabelle, marries James Foster on the grounds of the Martin House Complex.
    • Darwin D. Martin commissions Frank Lloyd Wright to design a home for James and Dorothy Foster.  The plans were unexecuted.
  • 1925  (September 1) Having finished his 47th year with the Larkin Company, Darwin D. Martin retires.  
  • ​1926
    • (April 19) Darwin D. Martin purchases a property on the shore of Lake Erie in the town of Derby, New York.  The 250-foot front property includes a 60-foot cliff.
    • (April 21) Darwin D. Martin informs Frank Lloyd Wright that he is interested in having a two-story stone house built on the Derby property.
    • (May 3) Frank Lloyd Wright sends Martin preliminary drawings for the building. 
    • (May 3) Darwin R. Martin, son of Darwin and Isabelle, marries Dorothy Wende.
    • (May 5) Darwin D. Martin informs Frank Lloyd Wright that his wife, Isabelle R. Martin would be Wright's client.
    • (August 19-20) Frank Lloyd Wright visits Buffalo to see the site.
    • (August 22) Isabelle R. Martin visits the site for the first time.
    • (September) Construction begins on the garage. Due to marital problems, Frank Lloyd Wright asks his son John Lloyd Wright to take over the project.  The Martins do not approve the change.
    • (November) Frank Lloyd Wright resumes his service to the Martins.
  • 1927
    • (April 5-6) Frank Lloyd Wright visits the construction site.
    • (June 4) Darwin D. Martin writes to Frank Lloyd Wright regarding the completion of the foundation of the main house.
    • (June 15-16) Frank Lloyd Wright visits the site.
    • (August 31-September 2) The chimney and masonry of main house is completed..
  • 1928
    • (March 10, 12) Furniture is bought for main house.
    • (July 21-23) George, Delta and Laura Barton are the Martins first guests at Graycliff.
    • (September 20) Paul A. Harsh, a house guest at Graycliff, suggests the name "Graycliff."
Graycliff lower level under construction

Graycliff lower level under construction

Image Identifier MS_22.3_1.3

Graycliff frame and chimney under construction showing a workman

Graycliff frame and chimney under construction

Image Identifier MS_22.3_5.4

A view of Graycliff construction from the northwest

Graycliff construction from the northwest

Image Identifier MS_22.3_1.4

Graycliff mid-section under construction

Graycliff mid-section under construction

Image Identifier MS_22.3_1.6

Graycliff north side under construction

Graycliff north side under construction

Image Identifier MS_22.3_1.13

Graycliff construction from the southeast showing a workman with a wheel barrow

Graycliff construction from the southeast

Image Identifier MS_22.3_2.3

Graycliff construction showing the entire south side

Graycliff construction showing the entire south side

Image Identifier MS_22.3_2.10

Graycliff constrcution showing porte-cochre and stone basin

Graycliff constrcution showing porte-cochre and stone basin

Image Identifier MS_22.3_2.13

Graycliff construction, southwest view

Graycliff construction, southwest view

Image Identifier MS_22.3_4.7

Graycliff interior under construction with two women pictured

Graycliff interior under construction

Image Identifier MS_22.3_5.3

Graycliff construction showing the south entrance

Graycliff construction showing the south entrance

Image Identifier MS_22.3_7.1

The south side of Graycliff

The south side of Graycliff

Image Identifier MS_22.3_7.14

Graycliff garage

Graycliff garage

Image Identifier MS_22.3_7.4

The north side of Grayciff

The north side of Grayciff

Image Identifier MS_22.5_479

Darwin D. Martin's extended family posed for a photo on the steps of Graycliff

Darwin D. Martin's extended family posed for a photo on the steps of Graycliff

Image Identifier MS_22.5_511

Darwin D. and Isabelle R. Martin outside Grayclif with their grandchildren Margaret and Darwin M. Foster

Darwin D. and Isabelle R. Martin outside Grayclif with grandchildren Margaret and Darwin M. Foster

Image Identifier MS_22.5_496

James and Dorothy Foster with children Margaret and Darwin M. sitting on the esplande stone bench

James and Dorothy Foster with children Margaret and Darwin M. sitting on the esplande stone bench

Image Identifier MS_22.5_773

Graycliff tower staircase to the beach

Graycliff tower staircase to the beach

Image Identifier MS_22.5_481

Graycliff interior showing the living room and fieldstone fireplace

Graycliff living room with fieldstone fireplace

Image Identifier MS_22.5_483

The entire Darwin D. Martin Photograph Collection can be found here.

  • 1929
    • ​(April 16) Isabelle R. Martin asks Frank Lloyd Wright to design wandering paths throughout the property and a walk across the esplanade to the tower stairway for servants.
    • (June 15) Frank Lloyd Wright visits site.  
    • (July) The Martins ask Frank Lloyd Wright to design a "concrete tent house" for the Foster family (unexecuted).
    • (July 20) Darwin D. Martin receives the plans for the Blue Sky Mausoleum from Frank Lloyd Wright.  Intended for the Martins' plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery, the plans were unexecuted in Martin and Wright's lifetimes. Isabelle R. Martin also receives plans from Wright for a stone bench at Graycliff.
    • (July 29) Construction on evergreen garden, stone seat begins.
    • (August 16) The Martins ask Frank Lloyd Wright to design a third floor to the main house (unexecuted). 
    • (September) Frank Lloyd Wright finalizes the design for the landscape, tennis court, circle and guest house.  The guest house was not executed.
  • 1935  (December 17) Darwin D. Martin passes away.  Isabelle R. Martin continues to spend summers at Graycliff.  
  • 1937  Isabelle R. Martin abandons the Martin House.
  • 1938  (November) Engineering report on the Graycliff site is compiled by G.E. Seitzmiller for insurance purposes.
  • 1941  Isabelle R. Martin continues to summer at Graycliff, but moves into the garage apartment.
  • 1943  Isabelle R. Martin spends her last summer at Graycliff.  She moves permanently to Buffalo to live with the Foster family.
  • 1945  (February 22) Isabelle R. Martin passes away.  Stewardship of Graycliff falls to a holding company belonging to the Martin's son, Darwin R. Martin.
  • 1951  (June 6) Piarist Fathers, a Hungarian order, purchases Graycliff from Darwin R. Martin's Buffalo-Phoenix Corporation.
  • Circa 1955  The chapel addition over south terrace of main house, the garage addition, the school/dormitory and a storage building are constructed.
  • 1958  (August) Frank Lloyd Wright visits Graycliff.
  • 1959  (April 9) Frank Lloyd Wright dies. 
  • 1967  The State University of New York at Buffalo purchases the Martin House Complex's main house as the residence for its president Martin Meyerson.  It would later serve as the home of the University Archives.
  • Circa 1970  A group of Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiasts from the local community begin efforts to restore the Darwin D. Martin House.  These efforts include giving tours, obtaining art and furniture original to the house and getting the house recognized as a local and national landmark.
  • 1993  (March 26) The University at Buffalo, the Martin House Restoration Corporation and the New York State Office of Park, Recreation and Historic Preservation enter into the Joint Cooperation Agreement to restore the Darwin D. Martin House.
  • 1996  Piarist Father's put the Graycliff property up for sale.  Graycliff Conservancy is formed to acquire and restore the site.
  • 1997  (October) Graycliff Conservancy signs a contract to purchase the Graycliff site.
  • 2000  (March 27) The Amended and Restated Joint Cooperation Agreement is entered into by the University at Buffalo, the Martin House Restoration Corporation and the New York State Office of Park, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

For more information about the history of the Darwin D. Martin House Complex from 1946-present, including its restoration, please see

For more information about the recent history of Graycliff, including its restoration, please see

  •  Graycliff Timeline