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2nd Floor of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House is now Open for Viewing

The second floor of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House is once again open for viewing, after being closed off to the public for restorations. Work on the second floor is the last phase of the landmark’s interior restoration. Rooms located on the second floor of the house include Martin family’s bedrooms, a guest suite of rooms, servants’ quarters, and a sewing room. This newly opened floor will be available for viewing on Martin House Plus (two-hour) tours, and on certain specialty tours, such as All Wright All Day. These tours will also spotlight Wright-designed built-in furniture, and some of his sensational glasswork.

A team of local artisans and woodworkers led the way to the finish line, which is the crowning achievement of the house. The next phase will be the landscaping project, which will begin soon.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to have been selected to work on this project,” said John Hulley (Hulley Woodworking), whose team of artisans, craftsmen, and builders was responsible for restoring the interior woodwork. “I am especially proud of my team of craftsmen, all of whom honed their skills here in Buffalo.  The cabinetmakers and carpenters who built this house would certainly approve of the workmanship of these modern day artisans, who spent thousands of hours carefully and meticulously restoring their work.”

Two of the chief woodworkers who were deeply involved with the process, Stephen Oubre and Rolf Hoeg, will be bestowed the 2018 Preservation Craft award from Preservation Buffalo Niagara. 

Oubre said of the achievement, “Every skilled worker should be grateful that they have found their work, and that there are patrons out there willing to pay them to do what they love to do.  [Executive Director] Mary Roberts and the Restoration Corporation have trusted me to rebuild something they hold very dear.  I am grateful to Matt Meier, Jamie Robideau, and the late Ted Lownie of HHL Architects for their generous support and guidance when I needed it and for affording me a bit of maker’s license when I didn’t.” 

“There were times I felt like an old shipwright methodically repairing and refitting a vessel for another 100 year voyage,” mentioned Hoeg. “Other times a portrait artist, rendering the visions of architects and owners both present and past.  All the while maintaining healthy doses of awe, inquiry, and gratitude as I am allowed to pursue my craft.”

From the built-ins to the walls, every last aesthetic detail has been pieced together, ensuring that the result is up to the standards originally established by Wright for his organic architecture.

Microscopic examinations of paint samples and basic glaze recipes from Wright’s correspondence with Darwin Martin allow Hormuth to execute her work using period materials and techniques.

“The treatment of walls and ceilings is of paramount importance in Frank Lloyd Wright restorations,” mentioned Jo Hormuth, a multi-disciplinary independent artist and instructor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who led the restoration process for the plaster finishes and gilded brickwork throughout the house. “Those surfaces are the most prominent feature in terms of square footage and do much to shape the overall mood of his interiors. Here, the incorporation of metallic powders into wax glazes adds brilliance and luminosity, subtly reflecting sunlight and firelight, contributing to – along with the woodwork, mosaic fireplace, leaded-glass windows, and other elements – a stunning and unified interior.”

The Martin House went from an at-risk structure that had been partially stripped of its architectural details, to a pristine example of the architect’s finest work. The completion of the second floor is another heralded achievement for the local preservation community.

Beyond the completion of the second floor, recent restoration efforts include:

  • Replicating the four-sided wisteria mosaic fireplace
  • Recreating the two signature Jewett iceboxes in the Martin’s kitchen
  • Installing eight original art glass windows
  • Unveiling a completely restored Barton House, set to re-open in June 2018
  • Wright-designed landscape is scheduled to break ground this spring

To experience the Martin House second floor, two-hour tours run every day in April and May at 10am or 2pm, except for Tuesdays when the site is closed.  The site is open seven days per week June through August with two-hour tours open to the public at 10am, 12pm, and 2pm.  For a complete schedule of tour and event offerings, visit martinhouse.org.

Photography: Sandra Kicman

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

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