Richardson Olmsted Complex
Buffalo State Hospital
|Location||400 Forest Avenue, Buffalo, New York 14222|
|Architect||Henry Hobson Richardson|
|Architectural style||Richardsonian Romanesque|
|NRHP Reference #||73001186|
|Added to NRHP||January 12, 1973|
|Designated NHL||June 24, 1986|
The Richardson Olmsted Complex is widely considered to be one of Buffalo’s most important and beautiful buildings, and it will be adaptively reused as a hospitality venue and cultural amenity for the city.
Construction began in 1872 and the buildings opened in 1880 as the state-of-the-art Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. The project, incorporating the then-most enlightened humane principles in psychiatric treatment, resulted from the collaboration of three important designers and thinkers of the 19th century:
- Noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, father of the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style;
- American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who had designed Central Park in New York City as well as Buffalo’s beautiful park system in a partnership with architect and landscape engineer Calvert Vaux;
- Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride, superintendent of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane in Philadelphia and a founder of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane (AMSII), a precursor to the American Psychiatric Association.
Originally, the entire campus of the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane comprised 203 acres. When the site was built, the City of Buffalo gave New York State use of the property, which was then on the outskirts of the city. In 1927, the site was reduced by half to develop Buffalo State College. Patients were moved to a new facility in the 1970s, and the historic buildings began to deteriorate. The central administration building was used for the Office of Mental Health offices until 1994. It eventually was abandoned. In 1973, the Complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places and in 1986, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
In 2006, after years of pressure from preservationists, prominent Buffalonians, and elected officials, then-Governor George Pataki pledged $100 million in state funds to rehabilitate the Richardson Olmsted Complex and appointed the Richardson Center Corporation Board of Directors to save this architectural treasure. About $24.5 million of the funding was used to complete the new Burchfield Penney Art Center, which shares part of the original campus with the Complex, and the Eleanor and Wilson Greatbatch Pavilion at the Darwin Martin House Complex. The remaining $76.5 million has funded and, in combination with historic tax credits, continues to fund important activities to prevent further deterioration of the Complex and to ready it for reuse. The Richardson Center Corporation has completed essential planning reports, stabilized all the Richardson buildings, re-landscaped the South Lawn, and designed a Master Plan for the Complex that provides guidance for near- and long-term reuse. The first phase of renewal consists of development of the site as a hotel, conference center, and architecture center for Buffalo in a third of the building space, which is on track to be completed in 2016.
Collaboration with many organizations has taken place throughout all phases of the reuse. Ongoing public meetings have been held to provide updates and obtain feedback on the planning process, and a Community Advisory Group has assisted with the plan development and implementation. The group includes representatives from the adjacent neighborhoods, business districts, cultural institutions, the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, SUNY Buffalo State, and historic preservation organizations. The Richardson Center Corporation offers regular public access to the buildings through tours focusing on the architecture and history of the site.
Adaptive reuse as a mixed-use campus is planned for the historic buildings of the Complex, starting with a hotel and conference center, and an architecture center in a third of the building space. The Buffalo Psychiatric Center will continue to operate on another 42 acres being retained by the NYS Office of Mental Health. About 7 acres will continue to be used by SUNY Buffalo State for the Burchfield Penney Art Center and the Clinton Center maintenance building.
Community involvement continues to be important in planning for the future of this mixed-use campus, and has informed the Master Plan. The hotel, conference and event center, and Buffalo Architecture Center are at the heart of the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the Richardson Olmsted Complex and are expected to play a vital role in Western New York’s attraction as a cultural tourism destination. All three venues will occupy the iconic Towers Building and its two flanking structures.
Hotel Henry, Urban Resort Conference Center, is the cornerstone development of the Richardson Olmsted Complex, with a culinary experience at 100 Acres, The Kitchens at Hotel Henry. Both the planned 88-room hotel and urban resort conference center, designed to accommodate groups of 50-500 people, will be operated by InnVest Lodging/The Mansion Group, a Buffalo-headquartered company widely known for operating The Mansion on Delaware Avenue, a historic boutique hotel in the city. Construction began in October 2014 and will continue for about two years. The result will be a unique hospitality site that will employ 500 construction workers and create up to 100 permanent jobs, supported by state funds, federal tax credits, and private investment.
The design and construction team for this project is made up of the following:
- Flynn Battaglia Architects, executive architect, Buffalo
- Deborah Berke Partners, design architect, New York City
- Goody Clancy, historic preservation firm, Boston
- Andropogon Associates, architecture firm, Philadelphia
- LP Ciminelli, construction-management firm, Buffalo
The Buffalo Architecture Center (BAC) will celebrate excellence in architecture and city planning as influenced by Buffalo’s outstanding architectural heritage. The BAC will provide orientation, prompt inspiration, and serve as a gathering place to launch new ideas related to architecture, landscape and design. Through a mix of exhibits, tours, programs, and outreach, the BAC will educate the public about Buffalo’s architecture, landscape design, and urban planning, and its role in culture. The BAC will support organizations with similar goals of promoting Buffalo’s architecture, planning, and landscape and strengthen these groups with a collective home base. By providing a venue to host events, programs, exhibits and gatherings, the BAC will foster active collaboration among aligned groups for dialogue and shared programming.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- "Buffalo State Hospital". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-18.
- Richardson Olmsted Complex "Mission/Vision"
- Richardson Olmsted Complex "The Long History of a Distinguished National Landmark"
- Richardson Olmsted Complex "The Site — Past, Present, and Future"
- Richardson Center Corporation "Frequently Asked Questions"
- Richardson Center Corporation "Public Tours and Events"
- Richardson Center Corporation "Master Plan for the Richardson Olmsted Complex - September 2009"
- Hotel Henry "Hotel Henry - Urban Resort Conference Center"
- Richardson Center Corporation "Name and Branding of Hotel, Conference Center and Culinary Experience at Richardson Olmsted Complex Unveiled"
- Richardson Center Corporation "Adaptive Reuse of Complex Includes Hospitality and Cultural Venues"
- Richardson Center Corporation "Buffalo Architecture Center"
- Official website
- Hotel Henry - Urban Resort Conference Center
- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. NY-5606, "State Lunatic Asylum, 400 Forest Avenue, Buffalo, Erie County, NY", 8 photos, 8 data pages