With all the attention that is justifiably paid to Frank Lloyd Wright’s magnificent Darwin Martin Complex, two of his other architectural gems in Buffalo are often overlooked. Houses for William R. Heath (1905) and Walter Davidson (1908) resulted from the admiration these Larkin Company executives had for the Martin House. Each, in its own way, is unique and merits examination. Both are Prairie Style homes, with many of the features of the Martin house, though on a more modest scale.
The William R. Heath house, 76 Soldiers Place, was built for the brother-in-law of company president John Larkin. The house, set on a long, narrow lot at Soldier’s Circle, is distinctive in the way the house was designed to compensate for the small lot size.
Wright placed the house adjacent to the Bird Street sidewalk, then elevated the floor and window levels to restrict the view from the street to the inside. The narrow entrance and stained-glass windows became effective screening devices, although the elegant window patterns still draw attention.
Some of the house’s prairie features include massive square porch supports, a low-pitched hipped-roof on the porch, and second story buttress piers. Unlike other prairie houses, the plan extends in a single axis because of the lot constraints. The home is built from red brick that may have come from the same batch used for the Larkin building.
The front porch, living room and upper band of art glass windows face the circle and provide the view over a private lawn. The Heath house is considered a precursor to Wright’s renowned Robie house built in Chicago in 1909.
"William R. Heath House," and Chuck LaChiusa, "William R. Heath House," at the "Buffalo as an Architectural Museum" Web site.
"Walter V. Davidson House" and Chuck LaChiusa, "Walter V. Davidson House," at the "Buffalo as an Architectural Museum" Web site.
Also see Reyner Banham et al., Buffalo Architecture: A Guide, (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1981), pp. 163-4 (Heath House), and pp. 206-07 (Davidson House).