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Big Reveal: Martin House Fireplace

Empire State Development today announced that, with the unveiling of the restored Wisteria Mosaic Fireplace, the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House in Buffalo is substantially complete. The Martin House, a National Historic Landmark and New York State Historic Site, is an expansive example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s integrated design philosophy, unifying multiple structures with interior furnishings, decorative elements, extensive art glass and exterior landscape design.

“The Martin House is a crown jewel in Buffalo, a city known as a world-class destination for architecture enthusiasts,” said ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky. “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Western New York masterpiece has always been a sight to behold and with the unveiling of this beautiful glass mosaic fireplace, it’s better than ever. I am proud that Buffalo Billion II funds are pushing this project across the finish line.”

The total estimated cost of this ambitious restoration project is $50 million, which includes design and construction of a visitor center – the Eleanor and Wilson Greatbatch Pavilion – an award winning building adjacent to the historic site. The restoration effort was supported by $24 million in funding from New York State, beginning in 1993. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo closed the gap on capital funding as part of a recent $5 million commitment included in this year’s Buffalo Billion II awards. Those final funds will be used primarily to rehabilitate the historic landscape and to preserve the Barton House, a secondary residence on the estate.

“From the very beginning of the Martin House restoration effort, New York State has been a strategic partner and major supporter,” said Mary Roberts, Executive Director of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House. “With a fully restored first floor now enhanced by the signature fireplace mosaic, the state’s investment in the Martin House can be full appreciated by visitors from around the world.”

Located on a 1.5 acre site in the historic Parkside neighborhood, the 15,000 square foot Martin House has been painstakingly restored to its condition of 1907, with extensive original Wright furnishings as well as elaborate built-in cabinetry and wood trim. Three structures attached to the Martin House, an open-air pergola, a conservatory and carriage house that were demolished in the 1960’s to make way for an apartment complex, were reconstructed in recent years, also funded in part by New York State.

The central fireplace, one of four in the Martin House, was unveiled at a ceremony this morning. The welcoming four-sided fireplace serves multiple purposes as a massive, yet open, spatial partition between the entry hall and unit room; the symbolic and literal anchoring hearth of the home; and the “canvas” for an elaborately decorated work of art consisting of thousands of individual glass tiles in a warm palette of bronzes, golds, and greens. The artisan mosaic is a naturalistic depiction of wisteria branches, leaves, and blossoms. Botti Studio of Architectural Arts, Inc. of Evanston, Illinois restored the fireplace, in consultation with a restoration architects at HHL Architects of Buffalo. A small percentage of the original tile pieces survived decades of neglect and the eventual collapse of the fireplace and are incorporated into the restored mosaic.

Funding for the Martin House restoration project has come from a unique partnership of public and private resources: federal, state and local governments, various foundations, corporations, and numerous private donors at all levels. With its national and international appeal, the Martin House is widely recognized as a pivotal component of the Western New York economic development initiative that is focused on tourism investments. The site already attracts in excess of 30,000 visitors annually, with 75 percent of guests coming from outside Western New York, including a significant international component. Economic analysts have projected that the restored site will generate nearly $20 million of annual economic impact for the region and the state.

Martin House Board Chair Robert J. Kresse said, “If you are a citizen of Buffalo, and aware of what we have done at the Martin House, you should be very proud. We are reversing history, and for the first time in over seventy years, visitors will be able to fully see what Wright’s legacy was all about.”

The Martin House Restoration Corporation is a New York not-for-profit corporation founded in 1992. It has a 30-member board of directors and approximately 400 active volunteers.

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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  • David Pastor

    Huge WOW factor !!!!!!!!

    • Randy503

      I wonder how they knew it would look. Did they work off of photographs or plans?

      • Linda Courtney-Catt

        From old black and white photos. And from several pieces of glass that were found in the rubble at the bottom of the fireplace. The house was abandoned for 17 years with no heat in Buffalo winters. Freezing temperatures and water damage from failed chimney. The entire house was designed with organic autumnal colors of gold, green and brown shades.This fireplace hasn’t been seen like this in 70 years.!!!!!

    • S.L.Hawks

      Amazing what 50 million dollars of public money can accomplish ….

  • WeAreTheNormal

    Absolutely stunning.

  • WJRH

    I long have wondered what the wisteria mosaic would look like. I must admit to some disappointment however. I thought there would be beautiful purple blossoms cascading down. It could be that the photograph is not very good and it will be more impressive in person. I imagine there is a lot of reflection in the photo. It is hard to tell. I look forward to finding out.

    • Terry McClenahan

      WJRH – no photo does justice to the mosaic! You just have to see it!