Oohs and aahs filled the rooms as donors, supporters and local politicians walked around the first floor of the Isabelle R. Martin House wearing protective booties.
“Gorgeous.” “Beautiful,” they said. Nearly everyone was awed by the wide-plank cypress flooring they tiptoed on, which was part of two projects unveiled Friday morning at the Frank Lloyd Wright Graycliff Estate in Derby.
The Graycliff Conservancy also showed off a newly installed, state-of-the art fire-suppression system in the house and interior upgrades to the M&T Visitor Pavilion, but the restored flooring was the big hit.
Sun shining through windows offering picturesque views of Lake Erie reflected off the restored floors in the entryway, dining room and living room.
It was a big change from the dull, concrete plank flooring that used to fill those spaces.
“I think when you walk in a Frank Lloyd Wright room, it’s all the sensations,” said Diane Schrenk, president of the conservancy. “It’s the height of the room, it’s the floors – he’s directing your eyes in so many ways, and I think it just gives the warmth ... From what was there before, it really brightened it up.”
After the wooden floor in the living room collapsed in the 1940s due to a basement moisture problem, the Martin family replaced it with concrete. The new flooring replicates the original.
“The floors are now returned to their original splendor,” Schrenk said.
“It’s just unbelievable going from concrete to where it is now,” said State Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo. “I have hard flooring in my house, and this puts it to shame. I’m glad my wife’s not here to see this ... ”
The fire-suppression system uses a fine mist to quickly locate and extinguish flames, preventing major water damage. The system’s water heads and pipes are visible now but will be covered once interior walls are restored.
The conservancy, a non-profit, was created to acquire Graycliff from the Piarist Fathers in 1997.
The estate was nearly sold to a developer who wanted to demolish the buildings to make way for lakefront condominiums.
“It’s fantastic that we were able to preserve and keep what truly is a gem here in Western New York,” Grisanti said.
Since 1997, the conservancy has performed several major restoration projects at Graycliff, which consists of three buildings designed by Wright between 1926 and 1931. All building exteriors – balconies, roofs, chimneys, terraces, windows and doors – have been redone.
A beautiful restoration to the peaceful, 8½-acre landscape was completed last summer.
Conservancy officials hope more interior work, specifically furnishings, will be done in the future.
Graycliff’s tours have attracted thousands of visitors – from all 50 states and all seven continents.
Stanley Hooper of the Hooper Family Foundation was one of many supporters of the latest projects who attended their unveiling.
“It’s beyond words,” he said as he sat outside the Isabelle R. Martin House. “I like to think about what’s good and what’s beautiful, and this, no question, is a part of the fabric and culture of Western New York. We need that.”