It was said that Isabelle Martin never really liked the Darwin Martin House, built at her husband’s request by Frank Lloyd Wright. Its broad cantilevered eaves made the house too dark for her and, with her eyesight failing, she longed for a home filled with light. So Martin commissioned a second home, awash with light and complemented by fresh breezes reminiscent of their summers spent in the Adirondacks.
The result was Graycliff Estate, a mid-career example of Wright’s concept of organic architecture, where barriers are broken between buildings and the outside. Located at 6472 Old Lake Shore Road in Derby, Graycliff is set on a cliff 65 feet above Lake Erie with sweeping views of Lake Erie and Canada.
Graycliff is comprised of three buildings set within eight scenic acres of gardens and grounds, all designed by Wright. The largest building, the two-story, 6,500 square-foot Isabelle R. Martin House, served as the Martin summer home from 1927 to the mid-1940’s. The long, low, horizontal lines of the house echo the lake and the cliff strata. It not only captures the warm summer light and the cool lake breezes, but even in the depths of winter is filled with light, an inviting and welcoming home.
Built using local limestone and red-stained cedar roofs, Graycliff is recognized as one of Wright’s most significant designs of the 1920s, and shares several innovative architectural elements that found full expression at Wright’s most famous dwelling, Fallingwater, designed a decade later. Docent-led tours are available by reservation.