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Objects play a prominent role in the interpretation of historic sites. This holds true at the Martin House, where furniture, art glass, and other works of art designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Martins—as well as the family’s own personal belongings—help tell the story of this very special place.

Many objects and photographs from the Martin House’s rich collections are not currently on view. These works reveal stories in the lives of the various people who lived and/or worked here—artists, artisans, family members, or household staff—which taken together broaden our understanding of the Martin House.

Conceived by Frank Lloyd Wright, San Marcos in the Desert was an unbuilt design for a 1,400-acre luxury resort located in the foothills of the Salt River Mountains southeast of Phoenix, Arizona. It was commissioned in April 1928 by land developer Alexander J. Chandler (1859-1950).

Wright met Chandler earlier that year when he was called by former apprentice Albert Chase McArthur to serve as a consultant on the Arizona Biltmore project. Wright soon developed a preliminary scheme for the San Marcos resort. The plan followed the organic lines and planes of the desert landscape. Chandler responded favorably to the ambitious proposal and working drawings were completed. The resort was about to go into construction when it came to a halt due to the 1929 stock market crash.

This lithograph by Wright depicts an aerial view of the original design for the desert resort. The signed print is personally dedicated to his longtime friend and client, Darwin D. Martin. Written in the artist’s hand, the inscription at the bottom left corner reads: To Darwin D. Martin / “San Marcos in the Desert” – Souvenirs “in exile” / F. LL. W.

Acquired into the collection in 2009, the print originally belonged to Darwin D. Martin who passed it down to his son, Darwin R. The younger Martin eventually gave the work to his adopted daughter, Pattie Elise Thebaud Martin Armesto, the late wife of Mark James Armest0, who then presented it as a gift to the museum.

San Marcos

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
San Marcos in the Desert, 1929