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Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo - Roots and Branches: Sharing Family History Lesson Plan
ELA, Social Studies, Art, Career Development & Occupational Studies
3, 4, 5
Every apartment or house and every place you’ve lived has shaped who you are. A father’s hugs, a mother’s kind words, and your grandmother’s cupcakes help define you. Just like you, Darwin Martin and Frank Lloyd Wright’s family life as children affected who they became.
Darwin D. Martin
Darwin was the youngest of four children. In 1871 when Darwin was 6, his mother died. After her death, his father moved the family to Nebraska. Darwin missed New York. As a child, he came back to New York City. His brother Frank was hired to “soap sing” on the streets on NYC selling Larkin Oatmeal Soap. Soon after, when Darwin was fourteen, he joined his brother selling soap for the Larkin Company. At fifteen he came to Buffalo as a clerk in the company plant and within a year was a bookkeeper. Darwin’s dad followed him and moved to Buffalo. Before he was twenty, Darwin Martin had proven himself in the Larkin Company. His success made him very wealthy but his need to keep his family together came from those earlier times. Because of those traumas he wanted his brothers and sister nearby so he bought enough land for all them to live side by side. Family was everything to him. Darwin fell in love and married his next door neighbor Isabelle and was a loving father to his two children Dorothy and Darwin.
Frank Lloyd Wright
A great writer and speaker, Frank’s father William was a minister. He taught Frank how to play the piano. Frank’s mother Anna doted on her son. Deciding early in Frank’s life that he was going to be an architect, Anna provided colored papers and wooden building blocks (Froebel blocks). However, his parents fought and when Wright was about fifteen his father left and his mother moved back to her family in Wisconsin. Frank became estranged from his dad, not even attending his funeral. His mother remained a dominant force in his life. Throughout Wright’s architectural career he wanted to create the perfect home. He wrote that a well designed home would allow a family to spend happier times together. He also said that, “A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of a cultivated, enriched heart.” He wanted his clients to have what he didn’t have as a child—a happy home.
Create a family oral history. Ask your students to choose a family member to interview about their childhood. Ask them to include memories of their parents.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s son Frank and his grandson Eric all became architects. Wright’s second son John Lloyd Wright became an inventor. His most famous invention was Lincoln Logs. His sons David and Frances were businessmen and his daughter Catherine married a salesman. Ask your students to create a family tree that focuses on jobs and professions. What did their great grandparents and grandparents do for a living? Did their parents follow in their footsteps? Create an accordion book with pictures and words that walks through the family’s professions and ends with their dream of who they will become.
Today’s Darwin Martin Estate was built because Darwin wanted to have all of his family’s homes side by side. Decades after his death, we are still fascinated with Martin’s homes. Imagine that twenty years from now students are studying your life and home. Imagine a happy life and a happy home and write a story or create an artwork that explains who you became and why students will study you, your accomplishments, and your home.
Sometimes writing personal family timelines can bring up family tragedies—divorces, premature deaths, or severe illnesses. Instead of focusing on family history, look to family futures.
Who will you become in the next year—how will you change and grow? Create handmade postcards that you will mail to them in a year’s time to remind them of their dreams.
What will your grandchildren want to know about you? Create artworks or write an essay that answers the question.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo - The Time of Your Life: Creating a Personal Timeline Lesson Plan
Social Studies, Family and Consumer Sciences
Darwin D. Martin and his family were in the news in the early 1900s because of the unique home they were having built by Frank Lloyd Wright. This house was the “talk of the town." And in 2006, news of that house was again appearing in newspapers and on television. What happened in the last 100+ years to make this house the “talk of the town” in more recent times?
Using the timeline of the Darwin Martin House as an example, have students create their own timeline. They can create one for their own life, or, using the dates on the Darwin Martin House Timeline, they can replace the information with international, national or other events that occurred during those years.
FLW first comes to Buffalo
Construction of George and Delta Barton House started
Construction of main house started
Martin family moved into main house (November)
Last worker leaves house
Martin family makes changes to house (Also in 1920) (?)
George Barton dies; Delta moves
Darwin Martin dies
Isabelle Martin moves out of the Martin House; house is vacant
City assumes ownership house for taxes; Barton House sold to Gelzer family
Sebastian Tauriello buys house for $22,000, the amount of the back taxes
Pergola, conservatory, and carriage house demolished; three apartment buildings constructed on land between Martin and Barton houses
House sold to University at Buffalo
Barton House sold to Eric and Eleanor Larabee
The Barton House is purchased by The Buffalo News, M&T Bank and Rich Family Foundation and donated to the restoration effort. The Martin House Restoration Corporation purchases the apartment buildings constructed on the historic site.
Phase I of restoration: roof
Title of house transferred to Martin House Restoration Corporation
Phase II of restoration: foundation / drainage / veranda
Phase III of restoration: reconstruction of pergola, conservatory and carriage house
Martin House Restoration Corporation acquires Gardener’s Cottage through a generous gift of Stanford and Judith Lipsey
Phase IV of restoration (restoration of masonry on the exterior of the Martin House, including relocation of walls to their 1907 position) conducted.
The Eleanor and Wilson Greatbatch Pavilion opens. (Martin House visitor center designed by Toshiko Mori.)
Phase V of the Martin House interior restoration is under way.
Create a timeline of the important things that have happened in your life! You could include:
Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo - Word Cube Lesson Plan
English, Math, Social Studies, Art
Word Cube (pdf)
Throughout WNED’s Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo there are words that might be unfamiliar to your students. Architecture, music, sociology, economics and technology, all have language unique to their discipline. Often these words mean something very different in everyday language or another word is used to convey the same meaning in everyday language.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo For Educators
More than a biography of America’s greatest architect, FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S BUFFALO is a story of family, friendship and the meaning of home in American life.
The program explores how a friendship spanning decades affected the structural aesthetic of a major American city and made a significant impact on architectural history. Buffalo, New York has the unique privilege of having more Frank Lloyd Wright structures than any other city in America outside of Chicago.
This collection of architecture is due to one man: Buffalo businessman Darwin D. Martin. The centerpiece of Wright’s work in Buffalo is one of Wright's earliest designs, the Darwin Martin House. Built in 1904, it precedes such masterpieces as the Robie House and Fallingwater and is considered by many as the finest example of his prairie house design. The current restoration of the Martin estate is the springboard into FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S BUFFALO.
Contained within the walls of the estate is the extraordinary story of the thirty year friendship that developed between Wright and Martin—a friendship that has been largely overlooked by Wright historians. Through the prism of this friendship, the film explores the importance of Buffalo during Wright’s early career, the architectural significance of the Martin estate, and the development of Wright’s first large-scale commercial commission, the Larkin Building.
Over the course of thirty years, Martin became Wright’s closest friend and confidant. He looked to Martin for support both financially and emotionally. Insightful letters between the two men dramatically tell of the architect’s motivations, his human frailties and foibles. More than a story of architecture, FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S BUFFALO is a revealing and surprising look into the world of the greatest architect that America has ever produced.
Why Study Frank Lloyd Wright and Darwin D. Martin?
The creation of that which is uniquely American was a long time coming. From the American Revolutionary War to Britain’s second defeat at the hands of the Americans during the War of 1812, many Europeans believed that the upstart young nation would never survive.
Following the War of 1812, which some historians refer to as, “America’s Second War for Independence,” the new nation began to receive more respect around the world. Yet, it would take the better part of the next century before truly American business, religion, art, music, literature and architecture emerged.
Americans of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century flexed their creative muscles and were delighted to burst upon the world stage as not only artists and entrepreneurs, but as creators of an entirely new national consciousness.
The story of the Wright – Martin friendship is a microcosm of what was occurring across America at that time. It is a story of a businessman who came from nothing and an architect with a belief in his vision. It is the story of flourishing industrial cities and the expansive American landscape.
Join us, with your students, as we look at a story of family, friendship and the meaning of home in American life. Answer the question for yourself and your students, “How did the friendship between Frank Lloyd Wright and his wealthy Buffalo client, Darwin D. Martin, affect the structural aesthetic of a major American city and make a significant impact on architectural history?
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The Adult Education Division (The Division) of the Buffalo Public School District is the premier education and workforce skills training provider in the Western New York region. With a comprehensive service offering TASC test preparation, English as a Second Language (ESL) and Computer courses/classes, the Division offers FREE educational services either at one of its 35 sites, or via its home-based TASC distance-learning program. Registration is ongoing throughout the year for anyone aged 17 or older.
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