|The approach to Graycliff. Notice the complete transparency on the lower level.|
Taking tween and teen children to historic landmark architecture is probably not the ideal family vacation for most (at least not for the kids). Ours are kind of used to it. But we also try to balance ‘educational’ vacations with fun for the kids. Mom had the brilliant recall that there is a Great Wolf Lodge (and waterpark) in Niagara as well. The fact that our time in Canada would be spent there satisfied the kids enough to endure a few hours in the two buildings. So we set it up that we drove into Buffalo early enough to catch the last tour at Graycliff on the first day, and the following day we hit the Martin house for the first tour. Immediately after the Martin tour, we would be on our way across the border; only a few miles away.
|The look you may expect from an 11 year old visiting Wright homes while on vacation.|
Graycliff has a quite striking exterior presence. Appropriate to its name, it is a stone’s throw back from a cliff overlooking Lake Erie. The exterior is well restored and is what you would expect from a Wright designed house. It still needed some paint but the only real distraction is the rather ugly fence separating dumb tourists from their death in the Lake below. Apparently, there was a really attractive wall built by Wright in the 1920’s; but the Lake has since devoured it as the cliff is now several feet closer to the house since 1920.
|It wasn’t all bad. There’s the weed covered chain link fence behind them.|
It always shocks me to see a Wright house that is part of a larger neighborhood. Pennsylvania has two Wright houses (three if you count one relocated here) and if you know about Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, you know they’re remote and have no other neighbors but the trees, rocks and water. There’s no lengthy, wooded approach to it. As the house was designed just after 1900, the Martin House and the cute Victorian neighbors are contemporaries of each other. We learned the Martin House is really a complex of several buildings. A main house, guest house, conservatory, gardener’s house and garage. Even though this was essentially an estate, the scale of it all really fit in with the rest of the neighborhood. The only hint that there was something special going on here was the sleek, white visitor’s center. But even this is tucked back off the street and in a scale fitting in with the rest of the context.
|Martin House from the street.|
|This guy’s daily commute includes cutting through the yard of a Frank Lloyd Wright designed house.|
The exterior here too is what you expect from a Wright House. Though we would learn that most of the complex had suffered from serious neglect and had to be completely rebuilt, it was done well. The interior had also suffered greatly. Large areas of the floors failed and were rebuilt. Many windows were replaced. And the work was ongoing, but enough of the house was done on the first floor that even the fine detailing was able to be revealed. As we toured the dining room, a restorer was literally gilding the horizontal mortar lines on the interior, you know, emphasizing the horizontal as Wright was want to do. They even had some original and reproduction furniture. And the guest house was even closer to ‘finished’, boasting a dining room set and some excellently restored built-ins.
|What zoning??? This shot demonstrates the tightness of the site.|
Even though this tour was 50% longer than the Graycliff tour it was much more palatable to the kids. Both of them enjoyed the Martin house tour: there was no, “are we done yet’s” or “I’m hungry’s”. Mom and Dad were in our element (we both took a class which devoted a full month to Wright in Architectural Art History at Penn State). Our kids appreciate good architecture (we dragged them through Biltmore and Monticello already), but understandably for them, a home has complete floors, walls and furnishings and ‘stuff’. Mom and Dad were glad that the Martin House delivered.
|Success! Well, at least we avoided mutiny before getting to the water park.|
When Mom and Dad take their kids to Niagara Falls for summer vacation, somehow the blog post is a thousand words on Frank Lloyd Wright. Sounds about right to me.
This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a theme and a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme is “Summer” A lot of other talented writers who also are architects are listed below and are worth checking out:
Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Summer is a Great Time To Market Your Architecture Firm!
Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
summer working, had me a blast
Evan Troxel – Archispeak Podcast / TRXL (@etroxel)
Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Seasons of Summer
Jes Stafford – MODwelling (@modarchitect)
The Dog Days of Summer
Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Summer — Architecture Imagery
Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
4 Secrets To Getting The Most Out Of Your Summer Internship
Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
An Acrophobic Architect’s Illuminating Summer of Roofs
Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Glass in Architecture – Summer Wonders
Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@architangent)
4 Reasons Solar Power is a Hot Topic
Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
… and the livin’s easy
Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Samantha Raburn – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
An Architectural Spark for your Summer
Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Summer in Seoul
Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Adam Denais – Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
5 Things to Make the Most of Your Summer
Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Summer : A Review
Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Do I Need to Hire an Architect?
Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Work Projects during Summer