Unknown Stories of WNY: Darwin Martin House Fireplace

Pete Gallivan tells us the Unknown Story of the Darwin Martin House restoration of the "lost" fireplace

BUFFALO, NY - The Darwin Martin House is a piece of Buffalo's history and its future. Martin House Restoration Committee Executive Director Mary Roberts says it is "More than just a house, this one and a half acre estate is a grouping of  buildings designed over 100 years ago by America's greatest architect, Frank Lloyd Wright."

And for the folks working on the former home of Larkin Soap Company executive Darwin Martin, it is a labor of love.

It has also been an endless supply of hidden masterpieces that continue to be discovered and brought back to life, as is the case with the home's spectacular leaded and stained glass mosaic fireplace.

Roberts says, "When it was installed originally in the early 1900's, it was a four-sided wrap-around glass mosaic with tens of thousands of individual pieces of glass."  Last month, it was unveiled more than a century after it was originally designed and installed. The original fireplace was lost when the house was abandoned. It fell victim not only to thieves and vandals, but also the elements. They thought it had fallen apart and been thrown away.

However, work crews rediscovered this unknown story.

They were cleaning out the ash bin in the basement when they found pieces of the fireplace. They finally had more than just old photo's to go by. There are about 50 original pieces in this spectacular recreation, done the old-fashioned way, by Bodies Studio of Architectural Art in Chicago.

They hand-cut, hand-patterned, fired, hand ground homemade glass. Painted each piece of glass with some amount of liquid gold, laid it up in patterns, grouted it, and set them on 28 large glass patterns which were then shipped to Buffalo and affixed to the foundation. 

The fireplace is just another element to this incredible example of Frank Lloyd Wright at his best. Empire State Development C.E.O. Howard Zemsky says Wright himself considered this his best work. "This is a man who had a prolific career over many, many decades and at the end of it assessed his own career and said in buffalo New York I created my Opus, it's the Martin House."

© 2017 WGRZ-TV


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