Skip to Content

Darwin D. Martin photographs

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0022-0005

Scope and Contents

Photographs, primarily 1904-1937, kept by the Martin Family, depicting the Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo, New York, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. These photographs illustrate the exterior, interior, and grounds of the Martin House and the related structures, including the George Barton House. Included is an album showing the construction of the Martin House, July 23, 1904 to May 9, 1905; several views of the Marin House by Chicago photographer Henry Fuermann, some of which were used in an article about the house in the May 1908 Architectural Record; a series of portraits of Martin family members taken by Louise Mueller in 1912, which also show the interior of the house. Also included are photographs of members of the Martin family and a few photographs showing the Martin family summer home "Graycliff" at Derby, New York. Later photographs show the house during the period of occupancy by Buffalo architect Sebastian Tauriello, circa 1954-1965.


  • circa 1860s-1970s


Language of Materials

No textual materials are included in the collection.

Terms of Access

Darwin D. Martin Photographs, circa 1860s-1970s are open for research. Researchers are encouraged to consult the digital versions of this collection where possible.

Physical Access

Due to fragility researchers are required to use reference copies located in Series IX. Please refer to original photograph item numbers found in Scope and Content notes located throughout Series I to Series VIII. Where original photographs do not have corresponding reference copies, researchers may refer to the originals located in Series I through Series VIII.


Copyright of photographs 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) copyright and the University Archives before publishing from materials in the collection. Please see the Archives staff for information on copies of photographs.

Historical Note

Darwin D. Martin was born in Bouckville, Madison County, New York in 1865. In 1878, at age 13, Darwin and his older brother Louis Francis “Frank” Martin traveled to New York City and began selling soap for the Larkin Company. The next year, Martin left New York for the Larkin office in Buffalo. Martin is often noted for his invention of the card ledger system in 1885, a system thereafter copied by countless other companies for tracking sales and maintaining customer accounts. In 1888, at age 23, Martin began construction on his first home at 145 Summit Avenue in Buffalo, New York, and one year later married Isabelle Reidpath (born 1869) of Buffalo. While at the Larkin Company, Martin continued to rise in the corporate hierarchy and make his fortune, replacing Elbert Hubbard as Corporate Secretary and as a member of the board of directors.

Frank Lloyd Wright was born June 8, 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin. In 1885, Wright enrolled at the University of Wisconsin at Madison to study civil engineering; however, Wright was convinced to pursue architecture after working for architect Joseph Silsbee. In 1889, Wright built his home and studio in Oak Park, Wisconsin, considered one of his greatest works. A year later he joined the architectural firm of Alder and Sullivan. 1893 saw Wright leave Alder and Sullivan to begin his own practice in Oak Park.

On October 29, 1902, Martin met Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo to discuss drawing plans for the Larkin Company’s Administration building and commissions for the Barton and Martin houses. Martin purchased property at 125 Jewett Parkway in December 1902. Construction began on the Wright-designed Barton house on October 11, 1903. The house was built for Darwin Martin’s sister Delta and her husband George Barton. July 20, 1904 saw construction begin on the main house for the Martin family. The Barton house was completed and occupied by October of that year. The entire complex was officially completed in 1905.

Over the next 20 years, Martin corresponded with Wright discussing numerous plans for other design projects, many of which went unexecuted for various personal and professional reasons. In 1910, at the insistence of Martin, Wright laid plans for Bay Beach Cottage which was intended to be a summer home for the Martin family in Bay Beach, Ontario, Canada, however ground was never broken. In 1923, Martin again called upon Wright to design a home for his daughter and son-in-law, Dorothy (Martin) and James Foster. These plans, too, were never implemented. Two years later, in 1925, Martin retired from Larkin Company after forty-seven years of service. Resting on his fortune, Martin commissioned Wright yet again to design plans for a summer home on Lake Erie.

On April 5, 1926, Darwin D. Martin wrote to Frank Lloyd Wright requesting the Bay Beach Cottage Wright designed in 1910 as Martin considered building his summer home on the shores of Lake Erie. On April 18, Martin surveyed a site in Derby, New York and the next day he purchased a 250-foot front on Lake Erie with a 60-foot cliff to the shoreline. Two days later, on April 21, Martin informed Wright that he was no longer interested in the 1910 cottage design, but a two-story stone house designed by Frank E. Newman for E.W. Russell of Greenwich, Connecticut. On May 3 Wright sent Martin his preliminary drawings for the Derby location, and two days later Martin wrote back informing Wright that his wife, Isabelle, was to be Wright’s client. Three months later Wright traveled to Buffalo to observe the site at Derby. Isabelle visited the site a week later. The next month saw construction on the garage at Derby, however, due to marital problems, Wright asked his son John Lloyd Wright to assume authority over the project. This was a change that the Martins did not approve and two months later Frank Lloyd Wright resumed his service.

Construction on the Derby site continued into the next year, and Wright visited the site again on April 5 and 6, 1927. Two months following, on June 4, Martin wrote to Wright on the completion of the foundation of the main house. A week later Wright visited the site for a third time. The chimney and bare masonry of the main house was completed August 31-September 2. The month of September saw Wright finalize designs for the site’s landscape, tennis courts, driveway circle, and a guest house; all were constructed but the guest house. Like the Martin house in Buffalo, Wright also designed much of the furniture for the Derby location.

On March 10 and 12, 1928, the furniture was purchased for the main house. The summer home was officially opened and occupied on June 20, although it wasn’t until three months later, on September 20, that a friend and guest of the Martin’s suggested the name “Graycliff” for the home. In April 1929, Isabelle Martin contacted Wright requesting a design for a screened walk to cross the esplanade behind the stone bench for the servants. Next month Wright visited Graycliff a fourth time, and in July the Martins requested that Wright design a “concrete tent house” for the Foster family and a third floor for the main house. Neither of these plans was executed. On July 29, construction began on the evergreen garden as well as the stone seat. Additionally, Wright selected and shipped the furnishings for the main house from Marshall Fields in Chicago and suggested the purchase of wicker and overstuffed chairs for the main house.

Martin was quite pleased with his summer home and requested Wright design a mausoleum for his plot in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery. The design was to be called Blue Sky Mausoleum. This venture was never initiated in either of their lifetimes, and in 1935 Darwin D. Martin passed away in Buffalo at the age of 70. Despite his passing, Isabelle continued to spend her summers at Graycliff while wintering with the Foster family, essentially abandoning the Martin house complex entirely.

Isabelle moved her residence into the garage apartment at Graycliff in 1941. She spent her last summer at Derby in 1942, moving permanently to Buffalo to live with the Fosters. Three years later, in 1945, Isabelle R. Martin passed away in Buffalo at the age of 76. Stewardship of Graycliff fell to a holding company belonging to Darwin R. Martin, Isabelle’s son.

In 1950, the Piarist Fathers, a Hungarian religious order, purchased the Derby site from Darwin R. Martin and over the following five or so years additions were made to the property. A chapel was constructed over the south terrace of the main house and a storage building and garage addition were constructed. Additionally, a school building/dormitory was constructed to house Hungarian refugees around 1956. Two years later in 1958, Frank Lloyd Wright visited the site one last time before his death in 1959 at the age of 92. The property would remain with the Piarist Fathers until it was placed for sale in 1996, when the Graycliff Conservancy was formed in order to acquire and restore the site. In October 1997 the Conservancy signed the contract to purchase the site and begin restorations.


11.76 Linear Feet (1 carton,15 manuscript boxes, 3 oversize boxes, 1 flat boxes, 2 card boxes)


Photographs kept by the Darwin D. Martin family depicting the Darwin D. Martin house in Buffalo, New York, and their summer house, "Graycliff", in Derby, New York, both designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and photographs of the Martin family.


Photographs are arranged by subject in nine series. Subseries are also arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically therein. Photographs are numbered in the same sequence as their digital counterpart unless otherwise noted.

Acquisition Information

Original photographs were received at various times from members of the Darwin D. Martin family and others.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Alternate Form

Digital versions of the Darwin D. Martin photographs are available here:

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

Photographs were compiled from several parts of the Darwin D. Martin-Frank Lloyd Wright Collection, MS 22. Collection was reprocessed and finding aid updated by Matthew Oliver, Danielle White and Gabrielle Carlo in 2015.

Finding aid for the Darwin D. Martin photographs
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
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

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