It is widely known that not long ago The Martin House was in jeopardy of being demolished. After years of neglect, the future of the downtrodden landmark was bleak at best. During that time period, the house was not only subjected to nature’s elements, it was also subjected to pilfering at the hands of those who had access to the structure. It was at that point, between 1937 and 1954, when many of the stained glass windows “light screens” went missing.
That was a point that is now considered Buffalo’s dark time. In recent years, a herculean effort has been underway to restore The Martin House. To this day, missing architectural elements continue to be returned to their rightful place of origin.
Now, seven of the original light screens are in the process of being returned to The Martin House, thanks to a strategic arrangement that has been struck up between The Martin House Restoration Corporation (MHRC) and University of Victoria’s Legacy Art Galleries, an institution that has been in possession of the architectural works of art.
“The light screens represent a broad sampling of Wright’s genius in glass, which is critical to the scholarly interpretation and general appreciation of the complex,” stated Martin House executive director Mary Roberts.
The Martin House has more art glass in more patterns than any other house designed by Wright.
Recently, a historic transfer agreement was reached with the University of Victoria’s Legacy Art Galleries, British Columbia, CA., to return seven of the original light screens to the architectural landmark. Incredibly, it turns out that the University of Victoria purchased the glass elements in 1968, and has been safe keeping the Wright treasures for almost 50 years. According to the MHRC, “The extraordinary decision made by the University of Victoria to return these light screens reflects the university’s ongoing commitment to artistic stewardship and heritage preservation.”
“We are doing the “Wright” thing by reuniting these stunningly beautiful light screens within their original context,” says Director of UVic Legacy Art Galleries Mary Jo Hughes. “Because UVic recognized that Wright’s work can only fully be understood when seen as a unified whole, the light screens will go home this fall to Martin House, following five decades of careful stewardship by the university.”
Reflecting on this agreement, Canadian architecture icon Mme Phyllis Lambert said, “Architecture is an art, and the art glass defines the Martin House. The transfer of these seven original Wright-designed windows underscores the significance of experiencing architecture in context and leads to the public’s greater understanding of a contemporary masterpiece. As a defining component of the city of Buffalo’s renaissance, I am delighted to support the Martin House and this bi-national effort with the University of Victoria.”
The light screens include stair landing laylight (East), wisteria window, conservatory narrow single-stem window, unit room cabinet door (one in a pair), and pier cluster casement windows (pair) – all respective to Martin House, 1904-05.
The return of these light screens could not have happened at a better time, as the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation and the sesquicentennial of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth are both upon us. To celebrate all of these auspicious occasions, two events have been announced, coinciding with the anniversaries and the return of the light screens.
The Martin House will host a “homecoming” reception on Wednesday, October 25, 2017, from 5:30 – 6:30pm at the Greatbatch Pavilion. Free and open to the public, the community is invited to toast to this momentous occasion, which coincidentally falls on same date as the 152nd anniversary of Darwin D. Martin’s birth. The seven “light screens” will be on display at the reception, before they are installed within their historical context inside the Martin House. Guests will have an exclusive opportunity to hear a first-hand account of the windows’ journey from guest-of-honor, Mary Jo Hughes, Director of the University of Victoria Legacy Art Galleries.
The evening concludes with a free lecture from 7-8pm featuring Stuart Graff, President and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation (Scottsdale, AZ). His talk, titled “Brand = Building: Frank Lloyd Wright and American Business,” will explore Wright’s understanding of brand through a modern lens of two of his most important commercial projects—Buffalo’s Larkin Administration Building and Wisconsin’s Johnson Wax Building. Limited seating will be available for the lecture, reservations are required. To register, visit martinhouse.org.