Gardening Wright (VIDEO)

Not necessarily a gardening post today – although it’s not necessarily NOT a gardening post. I created this video for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff Estate.

The original Graycliff landscape plan, as drawn by Frank Lloyd Wright.

I am on the executive board of the Graycliff Conservancy, the organization that runs the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Graycliff Estate. It was built in the late 1920s for Isabelle R. Martin, the wife of industrialist Darwin Martin, as a summer home. She was Wright’s client for this project. Their city home, also designed by Wright, is the now the Martin House Complex, a spectacular example of Wright’s Prairie-style architecture, and a building (actually a campus of buildings) he considered his “opus.”

Drone photo by Buffalo Aerial Pictures

Graycliff was built on the gray, 70-foot cliffs overlooking Lake Erie, towards Buffalo, NY and Canada. It’s a stunning property about 20 minutes from downtown Buffalo, in Derby, NY. The stone of the building came from the cliffs – stones found on the beach below – which exude reddish iron on the exterior of the building. You can see fossils in some of the stonework too. These were intentional design choices by Wright.

What also makes this Wright work unique is that it is one of the few Wright-designed landscapes. And the only one known to be drawn in his own hand. In addition to Wright’s original work, pioneering female landscape architect from the ’20s and ’30s, Ellen Biddle Shipman, also had a hand at designing some of the gardens and landscape.

Drone photo by Buffalo Aerial Pictures

After the deaths of Isabelle and Darwin Martin The Estate was sold, in 1950, to the Piarist Fathers, an order of Roman Catholic Priests from Hungary, for their motherhouse and school. Many renovations were made over the years to accommodate the Father’s residence needs and growing school. Nearly demolished – and the property sold off to developers – the Graycliff Conservancy was formed in 1997 and purchased the property and started the process of restoring the Estate to its early ’30s historic time period.

Many locals, and even Wright scholars, were unaware that the house either existed, or were aware of its significance in Wright’s career (it’s a sterling example of his “Natural House” and elements of its design can be found (in more expanded ways) in later works – like Falling Water).

Photo by Patrick Mahoney, AIA

I’ve been working on the board in the capacity of Graycliff Marketing Chair, working with the guy that got me started in the business of design and advertising in 1984, my first boss, Bill Wisniewski. He’s currently winding down his role as sole Graycliff marketing/designer for as I’m ramping mine up, trying to get the word out about this architectural jewel, building on what he’s established in the last 10+ years.

Year-round tours are given to  around 10,000 visitors giving a glimpse at yet another Wright marvel – still in its restoration phase. The major historic restoration to the landscape was started two years ago and included grading much of the property, recreating the original size and shape of the pond, and planting of trees, shrubs, and many perennials from Wright’s designs – also taking out many trees, shrubs and perennials that were not part of Wright’s designs. Much more landscape work is in its future – including replanting the annuals that were spec’d in different garden beds, a vegetable garden, and more landscape shrubs and perennials.

Photo by Patrick Mahoney, AIA

In addition to this video, I have produce their newsletter, annual fund mailings, member renewal letters, gala invitations, and more. I also maintain the Graycliff Facebook page, with content added just about every day. Pop over there and “like” the page! And stop by some time for a tour!

I have a long-time garden blog, a popular garden on America's largest garden tour, and have co-written a book on garden design titled, "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" When I'm not doing all that, I am an advertising designer always out looking to design things to promote your business. Look me up at #jcharlier.

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