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Darwin D. Martin-Frank Lloyd Wright collection, oral histories

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0022-0093

Scope and Contents

Collection contains recordings and transcripts of interviews with persons familiar with the Darwin D. Martin house, Larkin Company administration building, and another house in Buffalo, New York, all designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.


  • 1971-1980


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The Darwin D. Martin-Frank Lloyd Wright collection, oral histories, 1971-1980, are open for research. Sound recordings may only be accessed onsite within the library at this time. Access to sound recordings in this collection requires 3 business days’ notice. Contact to schedule an appointment.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Chronology: Martin Family - Frank Lloyd Wright, 1865-1959

Darwin D. Martin born - Boucville, Madison Co., NY
Frank Lloyd Wright born - Richland Center, Wisconsin
Isabelle Reidpath, the future Mrs. Martin, born - Buffalo, NY
Brothers Darwin D. Martin and Louis Frank Martin selling soap for Larkin Company in NYC
Darwin D. Martin, aged thirteen, begins work at Larkin Company in Buffalo
Darwin D. Martin invents cardex
Frank Lloyd Wright begins studies at the University of Wisconsin
Darwin D. Martin begins building house on Summit Avenue in Buffalo
Darwin D. Martin marries Isabelle Reidpath
Frank Lloyd Wright builds Home and Studio in Oak Park
Frank Lloyd Wright joins Alder and Sullivan
Darwin D. Martin replaces Elbert Hubbard as Secretary of Larkin Soap Company
Frank Lloyd Wright starts his own practice
October 29 -- Darwin D. Martin meets Frank Lloyd Wright
Darwin D. Martin purchases site for Martin House Complex, Jewett Parkway
October 11 - Construction begins on Barton House
July 20 - Construction begins on Martin House
October - Barton House occupied
Martin House Complex completed
Frank Lloyd Wright designs Bar Beach Cottage (Bay Beach, Ontario, Canada) for Darwin D. Martin (unexecuted)
Darwin D. Martin commissions Frank Lloyd Wright to design a home for James and Dorothy Martin Foster, daughter of Darwin D. Martin (unexecuted)
Martin retires from the Larkin Company
Construction begins on Graycliff
June 20 - Graycliff occupied
Frank Lloyd Wright designs the Blue Sky Mausoleum for Darwin D. Martin's ploy in Buffalo's Forest Lawn Cemetery (unexecuted)
Darwin D. Martin dies in Buffalo
Fallingwater (Bear Run, Pennsylvania), designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufmanns
Isabelle R. Martin dies in Buffalo
Frank Lloyd Wright dies

Chronology: Graycliff, 1926-1997

April 5 - Darwin D. Martin writes to Frank Lloyd Wright requesting 1910 Bay Beach Cottage design; Darwin D. Martin is considering building on shores of Lake Erie
April 18 - Darwin D. Martin looks at site in Derby, NY
April 19 - Darwin D. Martin purchases 250-foot front on Lake Erie, with 60-foot cliff
April 21 - Darwin D. Martin informs Frank Lloyd Wright that he's not interested in 1910 cottage design, but a two-story stone house designed by Frank E. Newman for E.W. Russell of Greenwich, Connecticut
May 3 - Frank Lloyd Wright sends Darwin D. Martin preliminary drawings
May 5 - Darwin D. Martin informs Frank Lloyd Wright that Isabelle R. Martin is Frank Lloyd Wright's client
August 19-20 - Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo to see site
August 27 - Isabelle R. Martin sees the site for first time
September - Construction on garage begun.
September - Due to marital problems, Frank Lloyd Wright asks his son John Lloyd Wright to take over the project; the Martins did not approve the change
November - Frank Lloyd Wright resumes his service to the Martins; construction continues on the site
April 5-6 - Frank Lloyd Wright visits site
June 4 - Darwin D. Martin writes to Frank Lloyd Wright of the completion of the foundation of the main house
June 15-16 - Frank Lloyd Wright visits site
August 31-September 2 - Chimney and masonry of main house completed
September - Frank Lloyd Wright finalizes designs for landscape, tennis court, circle, and guest house; the guest house was not executed
September - Furniture designs by Frank Lloyd Wright are executed
March 10, 12 - Furniture bought for main house
June 20 - Martins "open" house
September 20 - Paul A. Harsh, a house guest at Graycliff, suggests the name "Graycliff"
April - Isabelle R. martin asks Frank Lloyd Wright to design a screened walk to cross the esplanade behind the stone bench for servants
June 15 - Frank Lloyd Wright visits site
July - Martins request Frank Lloyd Wright to design a "concrete tent house" for the Foster family (unexecuted)
July - Martins request Frank Lloyd Wright to design a third-floor to main house (unexecuted)
July 29 - Construction on evergreen garden, stone seat begun; Frank Lloyd Wright selects and ships furnishings for the main house from Marshall Fields in Chicago; Frank Lloyd Wright suggests wicker and overstuffed chairs fo the main house
Darwin D. Martin passes away
Isabelle R. Martin continues to summer at the site, and winters with the Foster family
November - Engineering report on site compiled by G.E. Seitzmiller for insurance purposes
Isabelle R. Martin continues to summer at the site, but moves into garage apartment
Isabelle R. martin spends her last summer at the site; she moves permanently to Buffalo to live with the Foster family
IRM passes away
Stewardship of the site falls to a holding company belonging to Darwin R. Martin, son of Darwin D. Martin
Piarist Fathers, a Hungarian order, purchases site from Darwin R. Martin
Chapel addition constructed over south terrace of main house
Garage addition and a storage building constructed
Circa 1956
School building/dormitory constructed to house Hungarian refugees
August - Frank Lloyd Wright visits the site
Piarist Father's place property for sale
Graycliff Conservancy is formed to acquire and restore the site
October - Graycliff Conservancy signs a contract to purchase the site


1.30 Linear Feet (1 manuscript box; 1 legal manuscript box; 10 reel to reel audiotapes; 6 cd-roms; 1 media box; 15 cassette audiotapes)


Oral history interviews with persons associated with the Darwin D. Martin House, Buffalo, New York, and other buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.


The collection is arranged in nine series: I. Mary E. Burke; II. Dorothy Martin Foster; III. Ruth Tauriello Gorman; IV. Mrs. Wilmot (Heath) Jacobsen; V. Lorelei Z. Ketter; VI. Marjorie F. Leighey; VII. Darwin R. Martin; VIII. Jerry O'Connor; and IX. Edgar Tafel,

Acquisition Information

Oral history interviews were performed by University Archives staff and others between 1971 and 1980.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Materials

For a list of collections related to Darwin D. Martin and Frank Lloyd Wright see the University Archives' research guide at

Processing Information

Processed by University Archives staff.
Reprocessed and finding aid revised in April 2010 by Karen Spencer.
Finding aid encoded by Danielle White, February 2015.
Some sound recordings digitized and trasnferred to CD by WNED in 2005. Other sound recordings digitized in 2020.


Finding Aid for the Darwin D. Martin-Frank Lloyd Wright collection, oral histories
Finding aid prepared by University Archives staff.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)