Richardson Olmsted Complex
Buffalo State Hospital
|Location||444 Forest Avenue, Buffalo, New York 14222|
|Area||93 acres (38 ha)|
|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 in Buffalo, New York, United States was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. The site was designed by the American architect, Henry Hobson Richardson, in concert with the famed landscape team of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the late 1800s, incorporating a system of enlightened treatment for people with mental illness developed by Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride. Over the years, as mental health treatment changed and resources were diverted, the buildings and grounds began a slow deterioration. In 2006, the Richardson Center Corporation was formed with a mandate to save the buildings and bring the Complex back to life through a State appropriation for this architectural treasure.
Today, the Richardson Olmsted Complex is being transformed into a cultural amenity for the city, beginning with Hotel Henry Urban Resort and Conference Center and the Buffalo Architecture Center in the iconic Towers Building and two flanking buildings (about one third of the Complex). The remaining buildings have been stabilized pending future opportunities.
The large Medina red sandstone and brick hospital buildings were designed in 1870 in the Kirkbride Plan by architect Henry Hobson Richardson with grounds by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The complex consists of a central administrative tower and five pavilions or wards progressively set back on each side, for eleven buildings total, all connected by short curved two-story corridors. Patients were segregated by sex, males on the east side, females on the west. The wards housed patients until the mid-1970s. The central administration building was used for offices until 1994. In 1973, the Asylum was added to the National Register of Historic Places and in 1986, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The complex, the largest commission of Richardson's career, marks the advent of his characteristic Romanesque Revival style. When emulated by later architects, this style is referred to as Richardsonian Romanesque. It has been the subject of a long-term preservation campaign. Nevertheless, three pavilions on the east side were demolished in the 1970s to make way for newer psychiatric facilities. In 1927, the northern farmlands were transferred back to the State for the development of what is today Buffalo State College.
A successful lawsuit filed by the Preservation Coalition of Erie County (renamed "Preservation Buffalo Niagara" in October 2008) forced the State of New York to commit $100 million to its rehabilitation. Both former New York State Assembly Member Sam Hoyt and former Buffalo State College President Muriel A. Howard were actively involved in plans for the restoration and reuse of the Complex. As a result, the State established the Richardson Center Corporation in 2006 to rehabilitate the Complex. Perimeter fencing and lighting have been installed and a Peace Officer is on duty at all times to conduct regular patrols of the area to prevent and deter crime.
On April 10, 2010, a two-alarm fire occurred. The cause of the fire was under investigation. Damage was estimated at $200,000.
In 2013, the South Lawn landscape on the property was completed. The re-greening of the nine-acre South Lawn transformed two large parking lots at the Complex’s south entry into a welcoming space for community gathering and recreation.
At every stage of planning, the Richardson Center Corporation has used an active public process, which has helped to inform the Master Plan and all phases of redevelopment for the Complex. Ten public meetings have taken place since 2007 to inform the planning and reuse. A Community Advisory Group includes representatives from the adjacent neighborhoods, business districts, cultural institutions, Buffalo Psychiatric Center, SUNY Buffalo State, and historic preservation groups.
Adaptive reuse plans
On January 25, 2013, Phase I plans were announced to redevelop 1/3 of the Complex into hotel, event and conference space and the Buffalo Architecture Center. This first phase of redevelopment will be completed in 2016 and Hotel Henry and the architecture center will open in 2017.
- National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- "Buffalo State Hospital". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-18.
- "Cultural Resource Information System (CRIS)" (Searchable database). New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2016-04-01. Note: This includes T. Robins Brown (August 1972). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Buffalo State Hospital" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-04-01., Caroline Pitts (n.d.). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane (State Lunatic Asylum)" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-04-01., and Accompanying three photographs
- "The Richardson Olmsted Complex". www.richardson-olmsted.com. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
- Carla Yanni, The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States (University of Minnesota Press, 2007) 127-139.
- Archives: Architecture: A towering masterpiece: H.H. Richardson's Buffalo State Hospital, Buffalo Spree, Buffalo, NY, March/April 2000, Kowsky, F.R., Retrieved 15 December 2013.
- "History > Learn > The Richardson Olmsted Complex". www.richardson-olmsted.com. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
- "New York State Archives".
- "Buffalo State Hospital patient case files, 1881-1920.". New York State Office of Mental Health.
- "Buffalo State Hospital patient case files, 1920-1975.". New York State Office of Mental Health.
- Hoyt proposes civic panel for Richardson site, Buffalo News, Buffalo, NY: Berkshire Hathaway, 22 January 2004, Sommer, M., Retrieved 15 January 2014.
- "Stabilization > Learn > The Richardson Olmsted Complex". www.richardson-olmsted.com. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
- "Repairs underway at H.H. Richardson complex". Archived from the original on March 6, 2008.
- "Reuse Timeline > Learn > The Richardson Olmsted Complex". www.richardson-olmsted.com. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
- "Flames break out at closed psych center".
- "South Lawn > Learn > The Richardson Olmsted Complex". www.richardson-olmsted.com. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
- "Community > Support > The Richardson Olmsted Complex". www.richardson-olmsted.com. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
- "Governor Cuomo Announces First Phase of Redvelopment of Richardson Olmsted Complex In Buffalo". State of New York.
- Official website
- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. NY-5606, "State Lunatic Asylum, 400 Forest Avenue, Buffalo, Erie County, NY", 8 photos, 8 data pages