UB Receives Getty Grant For Martin House Conservation

Release Date: August 16, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning has been awarded a $91,000 Project Implementation Grant from the Getty Grant Program to help fund conservation of the Darwin D. Martin House on Jewett Parkway.

Bruno Freschi, dean of the school, called the grant "a major symbolic step" in the eventual restoration of the house, which is the principal component of a residential complex designed and built from 1903-06 by architect Frank Lloyd Wright for Buffalo businessman Darwin D. Martin. The complex is considered one of the finest extant examples of Wright's enormously influential "Prairie Style" of modern domestic architecture.

A national historic landmark since 1986, the Martin House is being restored as a house museum by a consortium of the University at Buffalo, the Martin House Restoration Corporation (MHRC) and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. When conservation/restoration work is completed, the house will be operated by the MHRC as part of the New York State Historic Site system.

The Getty Grant Program supports a wide range of projects involving scholarship in the history of art, advancement of the understanding of art, and the conservation of art and architecture. The Getty Grant Program is part of the J. Paul Getty Trust, a private operating foundation dedicated to the visual arts and the humanities.

The Getty grant is of particular significance, said Freschi, "because it is the project's first major grant from a private foundation recognized worldwide for its support of major conservation projects. The Martin House is truly among those great buildings worthy of timeless conservation, and this grant offers further public recognition of that fact."

Freschi said he was "pleased and delighted to thank scores of volunteers, architectural scholars, elected officials, representatives of the business and preservation community, the university and state government for their faith and diligence in supporting the Martin House project from its inception."

This 2-for-1 match grant, funded through the Getty Architectural Conservation Grant Program, funds only the conservation -- that is, the preservation and protection -- of original architectural elements and not their replication or replacement.

In keeping with that stipulation, the new grant monies will be combined with approximately $182,000 raised from other sources to help conserve specific external building elements enumerated in Phase I of the Martin House Restoration Plan. These elements include the original ceramic floor tiles, cast stonework, brick masonry walls and the roof support structure.

The restoration plan was outlined in the Martin House Historic Preservation Report presented in 1990 by the Chicago restoration architecture firm of Hasbrouck Peterson Associates. At that time, the estimated total cost of restoration was $5.2 million. Phase I of the plan calls for the stabilization, restoration and conservation of the outer shell of the Martin House over two construction seasons at a total cost of $1,276,000.

Freschi said that those associated with the restoration, including project architect Ted Lownie of the Buffalo firm Hamilton Houston and Lownie, are dedicated to the philosophy of conserving existing materials through stabilization whenever possible.

The Martin House itself has been owned by New York State and the University at Buffalo for 25 years. The UB School of Architecture and Planning, which has had custodial responsibility for the house, has overseen the vital task of maintaining the structure through very lean fiscal years.

The project, said Freschi, offers a full-scale opportunity for architecture students at UB to be involved in "living courses" in preservation in one of America's great buildings and to meet and engage the hundreds of international Wright scholars and disciples who are expected to visit the house during and after its restoration.

The MHRC recently acquired the Barton House, a smaller but well-preserved residence adjoining the Martin property. It was designed by Wright in 1903 for Martin's sister and her husband as part of the original complex. The house was purchased for the MHRC this month by three Buffalo business firms, The Buffalo News, Manufacturer's and Traders Trust Company and Rich Products Corp., and donated to the MHRC.

Besides the Getty grant, current funding commitments for the project total more than $1 million in pledges from the U.S. Department of the Interior through the office of U.S. Sen. D. Patrick Moynihan, the State University of New York Construction Fund, Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company, the Andy Warhol Foundation, Domino Pizza/Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the University at Buffalo.

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