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Artists, Authors and the Architects @ Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fontana Boathouse

By Rebecca Boone:
For decades after his death in 1959, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fontana Boathouse remained nothing more than a two-dimensional design.  That is, until local businessmen purchased the design and created a structure of its exact dimensions, and the Fontana Boathouse sprung to life on the shores of the Niagara River in Buffalo.
The world-renowned architect is known for designing his structures harmoniously with the surrounding environment, and the Fontana Boathouse is no exception as it has a breathtaking view of the Niagara River.   You can see the view yourself this weekend at the first Artists, Authors and the Architect event, which will feature a blending of the best of Western New York’s art and culture.  
On both Saturday and Sunday from 11am-4pm the Fontana Boathouse, located at One Rotary Row, will host a juried exhibit and sale of work created by 30 members of the Buffalo Society of Artists, an exhibit and sale of works by local photographers, and book signings by local authors from Buffalo Heritage Unlimited and other local publishers to benefit the Fontana Boathouse, which is a not for profit organization.  During the exhibition an English-style tearoom will be arranged on the veranda at the West Side Rowing Club for visitors to enjoy tea, scones and desserts. The general admission cost is $10 per person for access to the exhibit and tearoom.


On Saturday evening a special Meet the Artists and Authors reception will be held, for which the hors d’oeurves will be provided by Sample Restaurant and the wine will be provided by City Wine Merchant.  Reservations for the reception are still being taken at a cost of $75 per person, and reservations are required for attendance.
This event is the result of a collaboration between the Fontana Boathouse and the Buffalo Society of Artists.  The BSA was established in 1891 with the primary goal to bring high-quality art exhibits to the community featuring the work of local artists, with a focus on professionalism, professional development and publicity, said BSA President Gary Wolfe.  
“We think the synergy created by this collaboration benefits both organizations and helps the community have a broader view of the culture that exists in the Buffalo area,” said Wolfe.
The BSA was approached by Fontana Boathouse board member Sharon Osgood.
“It really started with trying to figure out something that would be different from other fundraisers, and the boathouse kind of lends itself to doing something different,” said Osgood.
Osgood said everything fell into place serendipitously as the event is taking place the same weekend as Buffalo’s Citybration.  Also, the event presents a rare opportunity for art collectors as three watercolors of the late Faith Davis, a local artist who passed away in 1967, will be up for bidding, and a portion of the proceeds benefits the boathouse and local artists.  Ironically Faith Davis was also a member of the BSA. The works were generously donated by Davis’ children and had sat untouched for years much like the designs for the Fontana Boathouse.  
For more information, please visit or call (716) 362-3140.

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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  • paulsobo

    Who says a world class building of a former golden age architectural period cant be built without being disneyesque? This is pure elitist snobbery.
    A building needs to serve its purpose for its inhabitants: residential or commercial.
    but a building should also fit in with the priod of its environment (not refering to Buffalo Building codes).
    There should be no hesitation when considering building designs whether to build a world class new design or a world class design of a former period updated with modern utiities.

  • paulsobo

    The 3 most iconic building identifying Buffalo that we lost:
    -Richardsonian Erie County Savings Bank (M&T site)
    -Art Nuveau Hotel Buffalo (Baseball Stadium site)
    -Larkin Administration Building.
    Of which, only the Larkin Administration site has remained a parking lot and can be reconstructed.
    Does anyone else have a favorite Buffalo building that we lost and thinks it occupies such a significant place in Buffalo’s cultural identity that it should be rebuilt?

  • Rand503

    What I said earlier is that when you attempt to recreate the past, it becomes Disney. And I specifically mentioned that this boathouse is not Disney because they followed exactly the original plans. The city of Warsaw was totally destroyed, and yet was faithfully rebuilt using the exact same materials and artistry that existed previously. I have no problem with that.
    What I DO have a problem with is thinking that you can just use old styles without the commesurate skill level in design or execution. We have plenty of faux colonial, “country french” and victorian houses built all over the suburbs, but not a single one of them comes close to fooling anyone into believing it’s original. But, hey, if you really think Clarence and Lancaster have authentic victorian houses built the last 10 years, I’m not not to disabuse you.

  • Rand503

    “The world-renowned architect is known for designing his structures harmoniously with the surrounding environment, and the Fontana Boathouse is no exception as it has a breathtaking view of the Niagara River.”
    Nonsense. It may have a breathtaking view of the river, but that doesn’t mean that anything constructed is harmonious with the surroundings.
    My favorite architect is FLW, and I love all his work. I’m super glad that they built this, and I hope that it lands on tours of his works. However, let’s all admit it’s not a masterpiece, and unless you can explain how it’s harmonious with the surroundings, I’m not buying it. If anything, it’s UNharmonious.
    I believe that the best way to revere a great artist is to not assume that everything he does is worthy of worship, nor does it mean that you may glibly assume that you understand his leading principles and can apply them to anything and everything. FLW took very seriously his desire to be harmonious with the surroundings, but that didn’t always mean what you think it means. I’m not sure I do, and one of my deep desires would be to have a discussion with the man himself someday.
    I’m open to the concept that this boathouse is harmonious with the surroundings, and I don’t expect an expert opinion and discourse on FLW philosophy in a post such as this. So I suggest that his philosophy should be suggested in a brief sentence or two and let the reader learn more later and come to an intelligent conclusion later on. Not sure if that’s possible, but it would be a bit more thought provoking.

  • Rand503

    I’ve often dreamt that the Larkin Building could be rebuilt. But it only makes sense to do it on its original foundations, and to built it exactly as it lived.
    The problem is costs. The Central Terminal is still there, but vandalized. The costs of recreating the metal fixtures would be prohibitive — they used Italian craftsmen back then. Who would go through the costs of rebuilding an authentic Larkin Building?
    FLW himself didn’t seem much concerned by the loss. He knew that buildings come and go. He believed that the important things was to put something in the “stream of time” and whether it lasted or not wasn’t really the point. Rather, it was important to do it and enter men’s consciousness and the conscious of the universe and then sit back and see how men and the universe react. He believed it changes something, and whether the structure lasts or not, the change still occurred.
    I can buy a real antique piece of furniture — an 18th century cabinet, for instance. It might cost hundreds of thousands. Or I can buy an exact copy made today for about a hundred thousand. Much cheaper, of course. But if you put the two side by side, you can tell immediately which is the original and which is a copy, even if exact in every way. The old one has a patina of use and wear, it smells different and has a different color due to aging. It FEELS authentic, and that’s way it commands a greater value. The copy is really nice, but just that — a copy. It looks nice in the living room, but that’s about it.
    There is value to both, I’ll admit. But if you made a cheap copy of the old cabinet, and the proportions are wrong, or it’s done without the same skill level, it just looks bad. There are better uses for good wood, IMO. And unless you can recreate a building exactly as it was and where it was, there are better uses for bricks.

  • paulsobo

    Rand…Im pretty much in total agreement.
    I dont think the houses in the suburbs are true to the design. They are contemporary interpretations. I dont know how anyone allows them to get built personally. Whether its clapboard for artsncrafts or stucco for tudors…its not expensive material so there isnt much reason to put a contemporary interpretation on it.
    I dont think everything an artist does is of the same quality. Artists do have peak periods.
    For modern, I like Calatrava and for period I like EB Green (residential) and Sullivan (commercial). They are still very buildable today.
    For the record, whenever I cant afford something…there is no problem purchasing a reproduction. It may not have the patina but it still nourishes just the same.
    The Roycroft Campus was built to duplicate an oldworld crafts community. It was a beautiful reproduction and nourished the soul for decades just the same.
    I think we are coming from the same place.
    I think I feel stronger that there were more buildings that created a sense of place, thus a sense of cultural identity. Those few buildings are worth the expense of bringing back.
    Reconstructing non-buildings like 1901 PAN AM fountains, bandshells, colonades…etc…thats like decorating a living room with a reproduction lamp or table. It complements the room…the way those reproductions complement a location in our city.
    We have things that make Buffalo like no other city in the US and thats where we can make ourselves (a poor midsize city) distinctive at a national/worldclass level.

  • Rand503

    I guess I pretty much agree, with the caveat that I DO like modern design. Of course, there is a lot of crap and hack work out there, but that’s true of any age. Still, I think we need to encourage new design because ultimately, that speaks to our age in a way that past things can’t.
    I recall attending a show of Sammy Kahn, the song writer. He has a review of his fabulous old songs, and he says that people often ask him why don’t songwriters write like that any more?
    The answer is because there is no market for songs like “Three Coins in the Fountain.” That song, wonderful from the 50s, and still good today, just could not get written today. Or when composers write new cadenzas for Mozart’s concertos in the style of Mozart — pretty, but they don’t get any traction. They are not “Of” our time, and will always sound like second rate mozart.
    Now, if you wrote a hip hop song entitled Three Bitches in the Fountain, that would probably work!

  • davvid

    I’m not exactly sure what Disney means in this conversation. But the building lacks the same authenticity of a FLW building that was designed and built in the same period of time under supervision of the architect. Its interesting that the event is called artists, authors and architects because the problem with this building centers on authorship. Posthumous builds like this one are still authentic in their own way but it has nothing to do with FLW. There is still a story behind it. Like Rand pointed out – rebuilding a war torn city tells a story of rebirth. Demolishing Nazi buildings in Germany tell a story about correcting or denying history. In Buffalo, building FLW buildings speaks to our nostalgia, our unwillingness to embrace living masters and our desire to capture tourism dollar$.

  • paulsobo

    I like modern also.
    In the 1970s, modern was Buffalo State and UB Amherst. Whenever I am there, I can almost here Charleton Heston pounding his fists “You damn dirty ape….you blew it up”
    Now we have the perfect place for modern UB downtown campus, and there modern fits.
    I just think we should remember, Buffalo is not a new city. We are more like a Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC, Charleston than we are an Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Pheonix or LA. We had our golden age while those sunbelt cities are still in their golden age. We cant compete with them and shouldnt.
    For Buffalo, modern should be top notch and restricted to those areas we are developing new. Most of the eastside, former industrial south side, Kelly Island and Outer Harbor.
    For Buffalo, we should have large swaths of intact sections of the old Buffalo…if necessary infilled with authentic period buildings or world class designs of the period. South Buffalo, the Westside, West Village and North Buffalo.
    We should never close off the new…but at the same time we should recognize there is a soul calming nourishment that comes when walking down the same street that people have walked down for 150 years. It gives a sense of permanence and presence….while the new…give a sense of freedom, rebirth and new beginnings. We need both.

  • grad94

    was it ‘disney’ when early americans built themselves little greek revival homesteads all across upstate new york? was it ‘disney’ when richardson did all sorts of romanesque things at the psych center? was it ‘disney’ when upjohn built a gothic revival cathedral for st. paul’s episcopal church?
    architectural revivalism has a long and respectable history, unless that you believe that everything prior to the international style is worthless or ideologically suspect.

  • Rand503

    Sounds sensible.