Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo - Roots and Branches: Sharing Family History Lesson Plan

Roots and Branches: Sharing Family History

Subject Areas:

ELA, Social Studies, Art, Career Development & Occupational Studies


3, 4, 5


  • Have you moved a lot—lived in different countries, cities, or houses?
  • Are your parents’ families nearby?
  • Are you living in a house that was built by your grandparents or parents?
  • Do you wish you lived in another house, another city, or in the country?

Every apartment or house and every place you’ve lived has shaped who you are. A father’s hugs, a mother’s kind words, and your grandmother’s cupcakes help define you. Just like you, Darwin Martin and Frank Lloyd Wright’s family life as children affected who they became. 

Darwin D. Martin

Darwin was the youngest of four children. In 1871 when Darwin was 6, his mother died. After her death, his father moved the family to Nebraska. Darwin missed New York. As a child, he came back to New York City. His brother Frank was hired to “soap sing” on the streets on NYC selling Larkin Oatmeal Soap. Soon after, when Darwin was fourteen, he joined his brother selling soap for the Larkin Company. At fifteen he came to Buffalo as a clerk in the company plant and within a year was a bookkeeper. Darwin’s dad followed him and moved to Buffalo. Before he was twenty, Darwin Martin had proven himself in the Larkin Company. His success made him very wealthy but his need to keep his family together came from those earlier times. Because of those traumas he wanted his brothers and sister nearby so he bought enough land for all them to live side by side. Family was everything to him. Darwin fell in love and married his next door neighbor Isabelle and was a loving father to his two children Dorothy and Darwin. 

Frank Lloyd Wright

A great writer and speaker, Frank’s father William was a minister. He taught Frank how to play the piano. Frank’s mother Anna doted on her son. Deciding early in Frank’s life that he was going to be an architect, Anna provided colored papers and wooden building blocks (Froebel blocks). However, his parents fought and when Wright was about fifteen his father left and his mother moved back to her family in Wisconsin. Frank became estranged from his dad, not even attending his funeral. His mother remained a dominant force in his life. Throughout Wright’s architectural career he wanted to create the perfect home. He wrote that a well designed home would allow a family to spend happier times together. He also said that, “A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of a cultivated, enriched heart.” He wanted his clients to have what he didn’t have as a child—a happy home.

Lesson Objectives:

  1. Students will be able to identify and examine family legacies.
  2. Students will become aware of how their childhoods affect later life choices.

Teaching Ideas:

Create a family oral history. Ask your students to choose a family member to interview about their childhood. Ask them to include memories of their parents.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s son Frank and his grandson Eric all became architects. Wright’s second son John Lloyd Wright became an inventor. His most famous invention was Lincoln Logs. His sons David and Frances were businessmen and his daughter Catherine married a salesman. Ask your students to create a family tree that focuses on jobs and professions. What did their great grandparents and grandparents do for a living? Did their parents follow in their footsteps? Create an accordion book with pictures and words that walks through the family’s professions and ends with their dream of who they will become.

Today’s Darwin Martin Estate was built because Darwin wanted to have all of his family’s homes side by side. Decades after his death, we are still fascinated with Martin’s homes. Imagine that twenty years from now students are studying your life and home. Imagine a happy life and a happy home and write a story or create an artwork that explains who you became and why students will study you, your accomplishments, and your home.

Sometimes writing personal family timelines can bring up family tragedies—divorces, premature deaths, or severe illnesses. Instead of focusing on family history, look to family futures.


Who will you become in the next year—how will you change and grow? Create handmade postcards that you will mail to them in a year’s time to remind them of their dreams.

What will your grandchildren want to know about you? Create artworks or write an essay that answers the question.




 Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo - The Time of Your Life: Creating a Personal Timeline Lesson Plan

The Time of Your Life: Creating a Personal Timeline

Subject Areas:

Social Studies, Family and Consumer Sciences


3, 4, 5

Student Materials:

  • Timeline of Martin House Complex below

Darwin D. Martin and his family were in the news in the early 1900s because of the unique home they were having built by Frank Lloyd Wright. This house was the “talk of the town." And in 2006, news of that house was again appearing in newspapers and on television. What happened in the last 100+ years to make this house the “talk of the town” in more recent times?

Lesson Objectives:

  1. Students will generate a timeline to transfer information.
  2. Students will gain an understanding of the use of timelines to transfer information on historical events.
  3. Students will gain an understanding of how other events in the world can shape local or personal events.

Teaching Ideas:

Using the timeline of the Darwin Martin House as an example, have students create their own timeline. They can create one for their own life, or, using the dates on the Darwin Martin House Timeline, they can replace the information with international, national or other events that occurred during those years.



FLW first comes to Buffalo


Construction of George and Delta Barton House started


Construction of main house started


Martin family moved into main house (November)


Last worker leaves house


Martin family makes changes to house (Also in 1920) (?)


George Barton dies; Delta moves


Darwin Martin dies


Isabelle Martin moves out of the Martin House; house is vacant


City assumes ownership house for taxes; Barton House sold to Gelzer family


Sebastian Tauriello buys house for $22,000, the amount of the back taxes


Pergola, conservatory, and carriage house demolished; three apartment buildings constructed on land between Martin and Barton houses


House sold to University at Buffalo


Barton House sold to Eric and Eleanor Larabee


The Barton House is purchased by The Buffalo News, M&T Bank and Rich Family Foundation and donated to the restoration effort. The Martin House Restoration Corporation purchases the apartment buildings constructed on the historic site.


Phase I of restoration: roof


Title of house transferred to Martin House Restoration Corporation


Phase II of restoration: foundation / drainage / veranda


Phase III of restoration: reconstruction of pergola, conservatory and carriage house


Martin House Restoration Corporation acquires Gardener’s Cottage through a generous gift of Stanford and Judith Lipsey


Phase IV of restoration (restoration of masonry on the exterior of the Martin House, including relocation of walls to their 1907 position) conducted.


The Eleanor and Wilson Greatbatch Pavilion opens. (Martin House visitor center designed by Toshiko Mori.)


Phase V of the Martin House interior restoration is under way.

Create a timeline of the important things that have happened in your life! You could include:

  • your birth
  • birth of siblings
  • first tooth
  • when you walked for the first time
  • preschool
  • kindergarten
  • a new house
  • milestones at church


 Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo - Word Cube Lesson Plan


Word Cube

Subject Areas:

English, Math, Social Studies, Art


3, 4, 5

Teacher Materials:

Word Cube (pdf)


Throughout WNED’s Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo there are words that might be unfamiliar to your students. Architecture, music, sociology, economics and technology, all have language unique to their discipline. Often these words mean something very different in everyday language or another word is used to convey the same meaning in everyday language.

Lesson Objectives:

  1. Students will recognize and be able to define the words from the activity wordlist
  2. Students will be able to use the word in context
  3. Students will be able to identify synonyms
  4. Students will recognize and identify homonyms
  5. Students will recognize ambiguity and the utility of words in real-life situations and problems

Teaching Ideas:

  • Cut out patterns for 2 word cubes, choose 12 words from the article “Meet the Martins!” and write them in the squares. 
  • Fold and tape the cubes with the words on the outside to make word dice. 
  • Roll the dice and give a definition for one of the words on top. Use it in a sentence. Can you name another word(s) that means the same thing as the word you rolled or another meaning for the word you rolled? 
  • If you are successful, give yourself a point for defining the word, a point for using the word in a sentence and a point for naming a word(s) with a similar meaning or giving a different definition for the word you rolled. 
  • If not, roll them again. Try to get three points every time you play, changing words regularly. Take turns with a friend, or each of you roll one die at a time and see who can get the most points and learns the most new words.






economic depression

























Monday, 22 September 2014 17:36

Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo for Educators


 Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo For Educators

More than a biography of America’s greatest architect, FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S BUFFALO is a story of familyfriendship and the meaning of home in American life.

The program explores how a friendship spanning decades affected the structural aesthetic of a major American city and made a significant impact on architectural history. Buffalo, New York has the unique privilege of having more Frank Lloyd Wright structures than any other city in America outside of Chicago.

This collection of architecture is due to one man: Buffalo businessman Darwin D. Martin. The centerpiece of Wright’s work in Buffalo is one of Wright's earliest designs, the Darwin Martin House. Built in 1904, it precedes such masterpieces as the Robie House and Fallingwater and is considered by many as the finest example of his prairie house design. The current restoration of the Martin estate is the springboard into FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S BUFFALO. 

Contained within the walls of the estate is the extraordinary story of the thirty year friendship that developed between Wright and Martin—a friendship that has been largely overlooked by Wright historians. Through the prism of this friendship, the film explores the importance of Buffalo during Wright’s early career, the architectural significance of the Martin estate, and the development of Wright’s first large-scale commercial commission, the Larkin Building. 

Over the course of thirty years, Martin became Wright’s closest friend and confidant. He looked to Martin for support both financially and emotionally. Insightful letters between the two men dramatically tell of the architect’s motivations, his human frailties and foibles. More than a story of architecture, FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S BUFFALO is a revealing and surprising look into the world of the greatest architect that America has ever produced.

Why Study Frank Lloyd Wright and Darwin D. Martin?

The creation of that which is uniquely American was a long time coming. From the American Revolutionary War to Britain’s second defeat at the hands of the Americans during the War of 1812, many Europeans believed that the upstart young nation would never survive.

Following the War of 1812, which some historians refer to as, “America’s Second War for Independence,” the new nation began to receive more respect around the world. Yet, it would take the better part of the next century before truly American business, religion, art, music, literature and architecture emerged.

Americans of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century flexed their creative muscles and were delighted to burst upon the world stage as not only artists and entrepreneurs, but as creators of an entirely new national consciousness.

The story of the Wright – Martin friendship is a microcosm of what was occurring across America at that time. It is a story of a businessman who came from nothing and an architect with a belief in his vision. It is the story of flourishing industrial cities and the expansive American landscape.

Join us, with your students, as we look at a story of family, friendship and the meaning of home in American life. Answer the question for yourself and your students, “How did the friendship between Frank Lloyd Wright and his wealthy Buffalo client, Darwin D. Martin, affect the structural aesthetic of a major American city and make a significant impact on architectural history?

Elementary Lesson Plans:

Intermediate Lesson Plans:

Commencement Lesson Plans:


Additional Resources:


Monday, 22 September 2014 15:42

Adult Education


 Adult Education



Watch programs now at

 Available programs:

  • Pre-GED Connections
  • Workplace Essential Skills
  • TV 411
  • Lifelines
  • Madison Heights
  • Crossroads Cafe
  • On Common Ground


For more information locally please contact someone at:

Buffalo Public Schools Adult Education Division

The Adult Education Division (The Division) of the Buffalo Public School District is the premier education and workforce skills training provider in the Western New York region. With a comprehensive service offering TASC test preparation, English as a Second Language (ESL) and Computer courses/classes, the Division offers FREE educational services either at one of its 35 sites, or via its home-based TASC distance-learning program. Registration is ongoing throughout the year for anyone aged 17 or older.  

The Division also offers waived or reduced tuition for vocational training programs in the areas of Health Careers, Customer Service/Retail Sales, Building and Construction Skills training, etc. A comprehensive community education/leisure learning program is also offered in the evenings.  

Using an extensive partnership system with area colleges and community-service agencies such as the Father Belle Center, Buffalo Employment and Training Center (BETC), CAO Harvard, Response to Love Center, Fruitbelt Leadership, Edward Saunders Community Center,  Gloria Parks Community Center, the YMCA, and the International Institute, the Division services over 6500 students per year. 

Call 716.888.7088 ext 100 



ACCES/West RAEN serves Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Orleans and Niagara counties.  It is one of seven (7) Regional Adult Education Networks established by the NY State Department of Education's ACCES Adult Education and Workforce Development Team.

Call 716.651.0560