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About Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House Complex

April 19-26: National Volunteer Week

Martin House News
April 19, 2020

To recognize and honor all of the volunteers who gave - and continue to give - so much of their time and talents to the Martin House would be nearly impossible. Collectively, these extraordinary people make it possible for us to welcome more than 40,000 visitors each year.

Instead, this special week provided an opportunity to highlight some of the roles members of this dedicated volunteer team fulfill. Check back as we will introduce you to one of our volunteers each day. 

Interested in joining the Martin House Volunteer community? Start the conversation here.

Saturday, April 25

“I’m always surprised at the beauty in the details of Wright’s architecture and how he was able to give Darwin Martin and his family a ‘home.’”

Barbara Barrett, a certified volunteer docent at the Martin House, has been sharing her fondness for Wright’s architecture with guests for more than 13 years. There are so many things that keep her interested and excited about serving in a docent role, including the ability to interact with guests from all over the world. She enjoys being able to share the story of the Martin House so guests can hear more about Buffalo’s long history, which includes showcasing the recent transformation of our city.

Barbara also has an admiration for Darwin Martin’s story. “He overcame early adversity, had very little education, and made such a success and contribution to Buffalo by commissioning Wright to execute this historical estate.”

Favorite moments? Two notable tours she has given include one to Uncle Junior from The Sopranos and another to a former resident of the Gardener’s Cottage.

When she travels? “When I go on vacation I always look to see if there is a Wright house in the area. I recently visited the Gordon House, originally constructed in Wilsonville, Oregon. In 2001, the house was sold and set for demolition. The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy stepped in and had three months to disassemble the house and move it to Silverton, Oregon. We were lucky enough to get a private tour.”

Thank you Barbara for being such a great ambassador for the Martin House and our great city.

Friday, April 24

 As a political science student at the University at Buffalo in the 1960s, Nick Marchelos toured the Martin House, which at that point was still a private residence. Once the restoration effort began in full force in the late 1990’s after years of neglect, he kept the project in his sights – knowing Martin House was a place he would like to volunteer after retirement.

Born in Niagara Falls, Nick, a volunteer of 11 years, has maintained an interest in architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright throughout his life.

“I have enjoyed witnessing the progress throughout the phases of restoration effort and feeling the ‘good vibes’ from the Martin House radiate out into the community.”

As a volunteer, Nick spends most of his time as a member of the Museum Store team, assisting with everything from inventory to guest relations.

“I am continually impressed by the number of visitors, both locally and globally, with whom I get to interact with when I’m on site.”

Nick, we thank you for your years of dedicated service.

Thursday, April 23

After retiring from the Clarence School District as a speech pathologist, Susan Perlow was searching for the right fit before committing to a volunteer role.

“I was mindful about how to spend my time, and I wanted to discover an opportunity that would bring me joy.”

Susan and her husband Steve, a newly-certified Martin House docent, were friends of the Martin House – touring many times throughout the years and often introducing out of town visitors to the experience. In 2017, her interest in gardening brought her to our Parkside neighborhood for Garden Walk, where she first learned about the historic landscape restoration. She was inspired.

This spring marks the start of her third season as a member of the Landscape Team, a group of dedicated volunteers who work alongside the Martin House horticulturist. “I have learned so much through this experience and have greatly increased my skills as a gardener.”

Susan didn't anticipate the new relationships she would build through the experience and is so grateful for these meaningful friendships – and for being able to work in such a beautiful setting.

Thank you to Susan for giving so much of your time so we can all enjoy the beautiful, Wright-designed landscaping.

Wednesday, April 22

Nick & Mary Hazlett share a lifelong interest in architecture. The couple has made a habit of traveling to other Frank Lloyd Wright properties across the country, visiting more than twenty to date.

“Our growing interest in Wright suddenly made us realize that volunteering together at the Martin House made sense and was a natural next step. We not only could continue to learn, but we could share our experiences with other Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiasts.”

In early 2018, the couple began been volunteering at both the Martin House and Graycliff, the Martin family’s summer home in Derby, NY. It didn't take long for the Hazletts to immerse themselves into the volunteer community that exists at the Martin House. Both Nick and Mary now serve on the Special Events, Interior Beautification, and Landscaping teams.

"The Martin House has become a labor of love. Cleaning and landscaping are done out of a respect for history and a desire to make sure the estate is there for others to enjoy. The best part is we can do it together.”

Favorite part about volunteering?

Mary: “For years you are told ‘don’t touch ANYTHING,’ then you join the cleaning crew, and you can touch everything.  You’re even asked to clean each and every brick in the house.”

Nick: “Who knew that the secret to cleaning rare stained glass windows was distilled water and Q-tips?”

Thank you to the Hazletts from all of us at the Martin House. 

Tuesday, April 21

When Eileen Saracino returned to Buffalo in 1999 from a two-year stint living in Siena, Italy, she sought out a home in her beloved Parkside neighborhood, which housed fond memories of childhood and the Martin House. Growing up, she was well aware of the decay of this Wright masterpiece.

Eileen began volunteering in 1999 and has felt like an important part of the project for more than 20 years. “The staff has always had the gift of welcoming all of the volunteers and getting the best out of each of one of us.”

As a member of the Collections Committee, Eileen is tuned in to variety of collections-related activities at the Martin House, including cataloguing and maintaining the artwork, working closely with Martin House Curator Susana Tejada. Eileen’s professional experience as Senior Preparator at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery makes her a valuable asset for the team.

When asked about one of the most important elements of her volunteer work? The relationships she’s made. “I have met the kindest, most dedicated group of people during my years at the Martin House.”

The collection is in good hands with Eileen. Thank you.

Monday, April 20

“Fifty years ago I used to walk by the Martin House but didn't know much about it. It just looked very run down. But I did know the house was unlike anything else I had ever seen.”

Jim Cooper has been a volunteer of the Martin House for more than five years. After retiring from a career as a community mental health case worker, he sought out opportunities that would allow him to spend time in lovely places. (I think we can all agree that the Martin House checked that box!)

His primary responsibility is to serve as a House Captain, watching over the house and collections during tours, events, and programs. Some moments he most enjoys include the chance to spend peaceful time studying the details of the House and the opportunity to engage with the volunteers on related topics.

“The Wisteria Fireplace is, of course, my favorite object in the house, and the Steinway is my second favorite. The piano is so majestic, and the wood graining is beautiful.”

Biggest perk of being a House Captain? Seeing guests’ reaction to being inside the House, including all of the "wows" when they first enter the front door.

Thank you Jim for helping us preserve this beautiful home for future generations.

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