to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff

Ready to Take a Journey?

Graycliff was built between 1926 and 1931 for Isabelle R. Martin, wife of industrialist Darwin Martin, as a summer home for the family. Standing majestically on the shore of Lake Erie, Graycliff is a monument to one of the greatest American tales ever told. It’s a story about a wealthy businessman’s ambition of building a breezy summer retreat for his family, a woman’s steadfast influence in an otherwise male-dominated society, an acclaimed architect on the downward slope of his career, and a country on the brink of a financial crisis that threatened to extinguish it all. As the Graycliff Story continues to unfold, we welcome you to join us on the journey.

The Martin family owned the property until after the deaths of Isabelle and Darwin Martin. It was sold in 1951 to the Piarist Fathers, an order of Roman Catholic Priests from Hungary, who used Graycliff as their motherhouse. The Fathers altered the property substantially for their own uses, adding additional buildings and structures that obscured Wright’s vision for nearly fifty years.

In 1997, with only a handful of elderly priests remaining, they put Graycliff up for sale. Although many people considered purchasing Graycliff, the only offer the Fathers received was from a developer, who wished to tear down the buildings to build condominiums on the prime lakefront location. Carol Bronnenkant and her family were among those who looked at the property. Fearing its demise, Bronnenkant called several public meetings to ask the public to save Graycliff.

From those meetings, the Graycliff Conservancy was born. Incorporated as a non-profit shortly thereafter, the Conservancy was founded specifically to acquire, preserve, restore, and make accessible to the public the buildings and grounds designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

A true grassroots success story, the Graycliff Conservancy has acquired the property, completed an enormous restoration effort, and now welcomes thousands of visitors annually to enjoy the peaceful experience that is Graycliff.

Annual Report

We invite you to read our 2021 Annual Report.

Graycliff Facts

  • The three buildings at Graycliff total over 9,000 square feet, all situated on 8.5 acres of land perched atop a 65-foot cliff overlooking Lake Erie in the village of Derby, Town of Evans. The property also includes a Visitor Center/Gift Shop and a Caretaker’s Cottage (c. 1932) that the Conservancy currently uses as a rental property.
  • Graycliff’s 250 volunteers live throughout Western New York—from Lockport to Batavia; from Grand Island to Maple Springs, NY.
  • Visitors come from every continent and every state. Approximately 16,000 guests visit Graycliff each year.
  • Members of the Graycliff Conservancy, over 600 in number who enjoy free tours and discounts, live all over the country, throughout Canada, and beyond: from England to the Philippines.
  • The Graycliff Conservancy’s restoration has proceeded as quickly as funding has allowed: We have purchased the property, removed non-original buildings, performed major structural repairs, and completed all exterior restoration of our three buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and we are currently engaged in completing the interior restoration of the houses and the restoration of the landscape to its form in 1931.
  • Graycliff has successfully secured over $9 million towards restoration, including from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, John R. Oishei Foundation, Erie County, New York State, US Department of the Interior, and more.
  • Total restoration costs are expected to total approximately $9.2 million.

Honors, Recognition and Awards

New York State Historic Landmark

National Register of Historic Places

Preservation Award, Preservation League of New York State

Wright Spirit Award, Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy

Daniel B. Niederlander Award, The Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society

Civic Empowerment Award; Greater Buffalo All-America City Committee

Save America’s Treasures—US Department of the Interior, National Park Service
(Sponsored Program, 2000; Award Recipient 2003)

Tourism and Economic Development Award Evans-Brant Chamber of Commerce

Cultural Landscape Foundation, Washington, DC
(recognition for Graycliff’s historic landscape) (2008)


Graycliff Conservancy is dedicated to the preservation of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures and grounds, along with the Ellen Biddle Shipman-designed gardens and landscape, that comprise Graycliff, the summer retreat of Isabelle and Darwin Martin of Buffalo, NY. The nonprofit organization strives to share the journey and all the stories of Graycliff advancing the property as a publicly accessible historic site.

Conservancy Board of Directors

Charles A. Le Fevre, ASA


Diane Chrisman

Vice President

John Sozanski

Vice President

Phyllis Spears


David M. Mikulski


Ann Casey, AIA

Board Member

Brittany Sainz

Board Member

Michael Komm

Board Member

Catherine Schweitzer

Board Member

Lisa A. LaTrovato

Board Member

Cynthia Silverstein

Board Member

Lauren Lewis

Board Member

Sandy Starks

Board Member

Tim Marren

Board Member

Margaret P. Stehlik

Board Member

Holly M. Nowak, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Board Member

John R. Taylor

Board Member

Scott W. Perkins

Board Member

Trevor M. Torcello, Esq.

Board Member

Honorary Board Members

The Reverend Margaret R. Foster • Darwin Martin Foster • Patrick J. Mahoney, AIA