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Graycliff Conservancy unveils new restorations and updates

Graycliff President Diane Schrenk, New York State Senator Mark Grisanti and Erie County Legislators Lynn Marinelli and Lynne Dixon spoke at the unveiling on June 6.

DERBY — On June 6 the Graycliff Conservancy Inc. unveiled its two most recently completed projects: restoration of floors in the Isabelle R. Martin House and installation of a new fire suppression system, as well as upgrades for visitor readiness in the M&T Visitor Pavilion at Graycliff. Diane Schrenk spoke on those developments. Also in attendance were Lynn Marinelli, Western New York director of intergovernmental relations at Empire State Development, New York State Senator Mark Grisanti, Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon, Noelle Kardos from the New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation; and Town of Evans Planner Sandra Brant.

In 1997, the Graycliff Conservancy was founded to prevent the demolition of the Graycliff Estate, which was designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. During the last 15 years, the conservancy has purchased the property, removed non-historic buildings and performed needed structural repairs to all three of the Wright-designed buildings. It has completed the restoration of all building exteriors, including the balconies, the roofs, the chimneys, the terraces and all windows and doors. The first interior room of the Isabelle R. Martin House, the family sun porch, was completed within the last two years. Last summer, the Conservancy completed the first major stage of restoration of its 8.5-acre historic landscape.

This project was far more complex than it may appear. During the late 1940s, while Graycliff was still owned by the Martin family, the wood living room floor collapsed, due to moisture in the basement. The Martin family replaced the wood floor with concrete plank flooring. While the Piarist Fathers were in residence, they covered the dining room floor with linoleum, affixed with adhesive. Once the conservancy began to restore the site, the dirt basement floor was removed and both drainage and a new concrete floor were installed in the basement, to resolve moisture issues. The linoleum flooring in the dining room was also removed, leaving a thick residue of black adhesive.

With moisture problems resolved, it was safe to remove the concrete planks, and restore them to restore the original cypress floor. The adhesive in the dining room was also carefully removed, exposing the original wood floors, which were then restored, as well.

The Graycliff Conservancy also installed a large portion of a new, state-of-the-art fire suppression system. This system relies on a mist of water to extinguish flames in the event of fire, rather than the gallons of water a more traditional system employs. This is the first time such a system is being used in Western New York. Another portion of the system is already protecting the Foster House at Graycliff.

A state-of-the-art sprinkler system will protect the estate from fire.

Restoration of the floors and installation of the fire suppression system in the Isabelle R. Martin House at Graycliff have been made possible through funding from the state of New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation and the Hooper Family Foundation. CJS Architects and BRD Construction were responsible for executing the project; Uniland Development donated design services and paint; Alpha Contract Flooring donated carpeting and restroom flooring, as well as labor and materials and CATCO and Merk Blasting contributed to parking lot updates.

The Graycliff Estate is located at 6472 Old Lake Shore Road in Derby and can be found online at or by phone at 947-9217.


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