An art glass window that used to be part of the Darwin Martin House sold at auction for $80,000 and appears headed for a private collection instead of back to the Jewett Parkway landmark.
Several bidders vied for the glass panel on Saturday at Kelly and Ben Schultz’s auction facility in Clarence. The winner’s identity was not disclosed, nor was the seller’s.
The geometric-patterned window caught Kelly Schultz’s eye during a routine appraisal. Schultz recognized the style of Frank Lloyd Wright, and informed the owners, who had the window installed in a local home’s interior wall. The panel appears to be a living room skylight panel from the Darwin Martin House.
Schultz said he had expected the window would fetch $50,000 to $100,000. Six bidders from around the country participated by phone, along with a number on the auction floor. When the bidding quickly reached $50,000, the field narrowed to three competitors, then dropped to two. The runner-up’s final bid was $77,500. The whole process took just a couple of minutes, Schultz said.
Ken Dukoff, an antiques dealer from Niagara Falls, handled the bidding on behalf of an “associate” whom Dukoff declined to identify. He would only say the person lives in the Northeast and has acquired other Frank Lloyd Wright, Roycroft and Charles Rohlfs pieces over the years.
Would the winning bidder consider giving the window to the Darwin Martin House?
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Dukoff said. “But they’re making accurate reproductions at a very low cost where you can’t tell the difference.”
Mary Roberts, executive director of the Martin House Restoration Corp., said she was “disappointed” the organization was not able to reacquire the window. The organization tried to buy it before it was auctioned. She declined to say how much was offered, other than to say it “wasn’t an insignificant amount.”
“This is a piece we still don’t know much about because it was very confidential,” Roberts said.
The Martin House Restoration Corp. does not bid on items at auction because the organization can replicate pieces at a fraction of the price it would have to pay to win the bidding.
About $46 million has been raised to restore the Darwin Martin House complex, and about $4 million remains to be raised to complete the work. There are ongoing efforts to reacquire pieces that disappeared from the property long ago.
Schultz said he was not surprised the window drew such widespread interest on Saturday: “There’s not a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright that comes out on the market.”
Schultz said the seller was initially unaware of the window’s significance, an experience he said is a reminder of the value of getting items appraised before sale.
Roberts is not giving up on the panel. She is reaching out to the new owner, hoping to persuade that person to either sell or donate the window, perhaps for philanthropic reasons or a tax deduction.
“We’d love it if this piece would stay in Western New York,” she said.
At the very least, Roberts hopes to gather more information about the window, which could offer clues about other pieces long absent from the Darwin Martin House.