Isabel Martin Residence, “Graycliff” (1927)

Buffalo, New York
HW #5

In 1927, after working intensely with his big client, Darwin D. Martin, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design a summer home for the Martins in Derby, New York; this time with Mrs. Martin as the client. Frank Lloyd Wright started designing Usonian Houses at this time; hence, the building incorporates elements of both his prairie style as well as Usonian. The building is located on top of a cliff overlooking Lake Eerie, with a view onto the vast lake, as well as the Canadian shore. The Graycliff Conservancy has claimed the property and gives tours to visitors. The exterior of the building has been completely restored to its original condition by the Graycliff Conservancy, and although still in the works, much of the interior have been restored as well.

Frank Lloyd Wright responds to the rocky cliff conditions of the environment by using rugged and uneven limestone as the building’s primary masonry structure. In contrast to the red brick that emphasizes horizontality in the Martin Residence in Buffalo, New York, the bold limestone cladding is used for the ground floor of the building, acting as support for the rest of the structure. Some of the stone has iron oxide residue from the roof, giving the look of a rusted exterior. The stuccoed walls on the exterior are tinted in raw sienna, further incorporating colors of nature into the building.