The Graycliff Story
The Graycliff Estate was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright between 1926-31 for Isabelle R. Martin, wife of industrialist Darwin Martin.
The family owned the property until, after the deaths of Isabelle and Darwin Martin, their descendents sold the property (c. 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 Graycliff Estate.
A true grass-roots success story, in a little over a decade, the Graycliff Conservancy has acquired the property, completed well over half of all restoration, and created the Pavilion Visitor Center to welcome thousands of visitors annually.