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The Mellon Foundation has awarded Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House a $150,000 grant to assist the new Robert T. Coles House Foundation in creating a Coles House Museum. These funds will specifically support the Foundation in organizational and programmatic development and strategic planning that will open the Coles House as a public cultural site in Buffalo.

“Robert Coles’ work was architecture of social conscience with activism and giving back at its core,” said Scott Ruff, Principal Investigator of the Coles House Foundation. “In the spirit of Coles, we hope to provide an inspiring public space that is fully integrated with the community and a critical part of its renaissance.”

The Coles House Foundation will honor the legacy of prominent Buffalo-born architect Robert T. Coles by restoring his modernist home and studio on 321 Humboldt Parkway and making the space available for community use. Coles was the first African American Chancellor of the American Institute for Architects (AIA) and his Buffalo-based firm was the first African American-owned firm in New York State. The house and architectural design studio is in the Hamlin Park Historic District and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.

“Robert Coles designed civic buildings throughout Buffalo and beyond that included recreation centers, transportation complexes, a library, and municipal buildings that served a public function,” said Albert Chao, Principal Investigator of The Coles House Foundation. “He also believed in building design teams that looked more like the society it has to serve.”

As part of this project, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House will serve as fiscal sponsor for the Coles House Foundation. The Martin House’s 12-month sponsorship, underwritten by the Mellon Foundation, will ensure the Coles House Foundation can establish itself as a 501(c)(3) organization, build relationships both locally and nationally, and create the support needed for public programs and engagements. The Coles House Foundation will join a growing community of institutions such as the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor, the Nash House, and Colored Musicians Club, in preserving and celebrating Buffalo’s rich artistic and cultural legacy.

“The Martin House is thrilled to work with the Mellon Foundation to support the creation of a new architectural destination in Buffalo,” said Jessie Fisher, Executive Director of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House. “The Coles House Foundation will be a dynamic community asset and we are proud to be able to use our resources and established infrastructure to support their journey.”