Building 51 | Building 51 | early 20th century frank lloyd wright designed wall-mount sconces from the darwin d. martin house
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early 20th century frank lloyd wright designed wall-mount sconces from the darwin d. martin house

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Frank Lloyd Wright

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matching set of original and completely rewired museum quality darwin d. martin wall-mount sconces designed by notable architect frank lloyd wright. the historically-important sconces were fabricated by the wilfred lumley company, pittsburgh, pa. multiple distinctive prairie style wright-designed sconces were used throughout the complex with most comprised of cast bronze and outfitted with white opalescent glass globes. the two single electric light sconces are simply stunning both in design and execution. remarkably, the globes are original and free from damage. the brass shell keyless sockets and cloth cord wiring have been replaced. a few of the original set screws used in conjunction with the shade holders have been replaced. thankfully, the previous owners did not alter the surface patina of the bronzework. the darwin d. martin house (1903-1905) was designed by amerian architect for darwin d. martin, who with his brother, william e. martin, were co-owners of the e-z stove polish company based in chicago. in 1902 william commissioned wright to build him a home in oak park, the resultant william e. martin house built in 1903. upon viewing his brother’s home, martin was eager to visit wright’s studio. shortly thereafter he persuaded wright to view his property in buffalo, where he planned to build two houses. martin was instrumental in selecting wright as the architect for the larkin administration building, in downtown buffalo, wright’s first major commercial project, in 1904. martin was the secretary of the larkin soap company and consequently wright designed houses for other larkin employees william r. heath and walter v. davidson. wright also designed the e-z stove polish company’s factory (chicago, il.) built in 1905. wright designed the complex as an integrated composition of connecting buildings, consisting of the primary building, the martin house, a long pergola connecting with a conservatory, a carriage house-stableand a smaller residence, the barton house, which shares the site and was built for george f. barton and his wife delta, darwin martin’s sister. the complex also includes a gardener’s cottage, the last building completed. martin, disappointed with the small size of the conservatory, had a 60 ft. long greenhouse constructed between the gardener’s cottage and the carriage house, to supply flowers and plants for the buildings and grounds. this greenhouse was not designed by wright, and martin ignored wright’s offer “to put a little architecture on it”. over the next twenty years a great long-term friendship grew between wright and martin, to the extent that the martins provided financial assistance and other support to wright as his career unfolded well into the first half of the 20th century. the martin house exemplifies wright’s prairie school ideal and is comparable with other notable works from this period in his career, such as the robie house in chicago and the dana-thomas house in springfield, illinois. wright was especially fond of the martin house design, referring to it for some 50 years as his “opus”, and calling the complex “a well-nigh perfect composition”. according to wright “the main motives and indications were: first – to reduce the number of necessary parts of the house and the separate rooms to a minimum, and make all come together as an enclosed space–so divided that light, air and vista permeated the whole with a sense of unity.” in 1900 edward bok of the curtis publishing company, bent on improving american homes, invited architects to publish designs in the ladies’ home journal, the plans of which readers could purchase for five dollars. subsequently the wright design “a home in a prairie town” was published in february 1901 and first introduced the term “prairie home”. the martin house, designed in 1903, bears a striking resemblance to that design. of particular significance are the fifteen distinctive patterns of nearly 400 art glass windows that wright designed for the entire complex, some of which contain over 750 individual pieces of jewel-like iridescent glass, that act as “light screens” to visually connect exterior views with the spaces within. more patterns of art glass were designed for the martin house than for any other of wright’s prairie houses. walter burley griffin landscaped the grounds, which were created as integral to the architectural design. a semi-circular garden which contained a wide variety of plant species, chosen for their blossoming cycles to ensure blooms throughout the growing season, surrounded the martin house verandah. the garden included two sculptures by wright collaborator richard bock. the complex is located within the parkside east historic district of buffalo, which was laid out by renowned american landscape architect frederick law olmsted in 1876. darwin martin purchased the land in 1902 and construction began in 1903. wright signed off on the project in 1907. the original complete martin house complex was a little over 29,000 square feet.