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 lake front 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 grass-roots success story, the Graycliff Conservancy has acquired the property, completed 80% of all restoration, and welcomes thousands of visitors annually to enjoy the peaceful experience that is Graycliff.
A full retrospective post on the history of Graycliff through the Martin family and Piarist eras can be viewed here.
- 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 10,000 guests tour Graycliff each year.
- Graycliff has received media attention from Town and Country magazine, Arts and Crafts Home Magazine, AirTran magazine, Lake Erie Living magazine, the Boston Globe, the Orlando Sentinel, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the International Herald Tribune, and newspapers throughout the United States.
- 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 Philipines.
- 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 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.
- Graycliff has been honored by, with and as:
- New York State Historic Landmark (1998)
- National Register of Historic Places (1998)
- Preservation Award, Preservation League of New York State (1999)
- Wright Spirit Award, Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy (1999)
- Daniel B. Niederlander Award, The Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society (1999)
- Civic Empowerment Award; Greater Buffalo All-America City Committee (2000)
- 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 (2001)
- Cultural Landscape Foundation, Washington, DC (recognition for Graycliff’s historic landscape) (2008)
View a copy of the Graycliff Conservancy 2017 Annual Report here.