Road Trip: Great Wright Road Trip
Explore nine of Frank Lloyd Wright's homes during a four-day excursion.
Begin in Buffalo, New York, and wind your way toward Mill Run, Pennsylvania, on the Great Wright Road Trip — a celebration of the esteemed architect’s works and life, chock-full of side-stops for dining, antiquing and exploring quaint towns.
“You can make a choice to use the expressways or travel the quieter roads and pass places like the Chautauqua Institute or a local diner, antique stores. It’s a lovely Americana experience,” says Suzanne Badgley, spokesperson at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House in Buffalo — the first road trip tour.
Prepare for a full four days by planning a night-ahead stay in Buffalo at InnBuffalo, the Mansion on Delaware Avenue, the Curtiss Hotel or Parkside House Bed & Breakfast.
The historic Parkside neighborhood of Buffalo is the site of the Martin House (martinhouse.org), built between 1903 and 1905. “What makes it unique is the fact that Wright was early into his career and this is one of his most substantial residential commissions ever,” Badgley says. “People are quite surprised when they come to see the Martin House and find it is a 1.5-acre estate with three residents and three additional structures connected to the main house. It’s magical when you step out of the car because you’re not prepared for all of the buildings, and there is a constant bloom of color from early April through November.”
Kostas Family Restaurant on Hertel Avenue serves breakfast, lunch and dinner for a sit-down experience.
Site two is the Filling Station at the Pierce-Arrow Museum (pierce-arrow.com). Referred to as “an ornament to pavement” by Wright, it is constructed as an exhibit. This is one of three posthumously constructed works, aside from the Fontana Rowing Boathouse (wrightsboathouse.org) and Blue Sky Mausoleum (blueskymausoleum.com).
Graycliff (experiencegraycliff.org) was Isabelle R. and Darwin Martin’s summer home. Darwin commissioned the Martin House and is known as one of Wright’s greatest patrons. The property is located 30 miles from Buffalo on a Lake Erie property.
“When you visit Graycliff, you see a house that was driven by Isabelle’s needs and wishes for a summer retreat,” Anna Kaplan, executive director of Graycliff, relates. “So, you have art glass at the Martin House and at Graycliff, you have a lot of clear glass to allow in ample light and not obstruct views of the lake.”
With roughly 20 years between the two commissions, “you see the spectacular Wright architecture and design but different and unique experiences,” Badgley says.
Stop in at the Erie County Historical Society-Hagen History Center, where you’ll find Wright’s original San Francisco office setup. Blocks away from downtown Erie’s waterfront, there are a range of dining spots to enjoy.
Stay the night in Laurel Highlands with a number of lodging options, including Seven Springs Mountain Resort and Ohiopyle Vacation Rentals.
Fallingwater is one of Wright’s most acclaimed works. The Fallingwater (fallingwater.org) home is a union of art and nature and offers two tour options. Children younger than 6 are not permitted on either of the house tours, but they may participate in a tour of the grounds for free.
Make time for lunch at the Cafe at Fallingwater or Bittersweet Cafe before moving on to Kentuck Knob (kentuckknob.com), which is an example of Wright’s “Usonian” style of about 60 homes he designed beginning in the 1930s that include native materials; low, simple roofs and cantilevered overhangs. There, you’ll also see views of the Youghiogheny River Gorge and Laurel Highlands mountains.
The home was built for the Hagan family, and Hagan’s ice cream is still found throughout the area. Drop into the Coffee Shop at Kentuk Knob for a scoop.
If you want to experience what it would be like to stay the night in a Wright property, book a stay at one of four houses at Polymath Park (franklloydwrightovernight.net) in Acme, Pennsylvania, before you tour the site the next day. Dine at Tree Tops Restaurant.
Polymath Park has been called the “Frank Lloyd Wright oasis” and is set on 125 acres with two homes designed by Wright, and two designed by his apprentice, Peter Berndston.
Overall, Badgley says the Great Wright Road Trip “is a wonderful way to travel on your own terms because you can find unique and interesting places to pull off the road.”
Road Trip: A Day in Fairport Harbor
Enjoy historic charm, lighthouse tours and recreation galore.
Road Trip: Pennsylvania Wine Trail
Discover destinations to wine and dine, stay the night and more along the Lake Erie Wine Trail.
Road Trip: Onward to Ontario
Encounter the southwest region on Lake Erie’s Canadian side.
Road Trip: All Aboard in Toledo
A bustling waterfront makes for an action-packed weekend.