Monday, March 21, 2011

The Buffalo State Hospital

By: Jessica Doyle, Intern

The Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane began construction in 1870. Due to the scale of the project, it took 20 years to complete. Originally, it was comprised of 203 acres. The buildings of Buffalo State College, as well as other buildings such as The Albright-Know Art Museum, now sit on lands once occupied by the farms of the Asylum. H.H. Richardson designed the buildings and Frederick Law Olmsted designed the grounds. The complex was modeled after the Kirkbride system and the facilities were state-of-the-art.

At the time, Richardson was not a well-known architect. However, these buildings would come to define his style. This style became known as Richardsonian Romanesque. He would later become the first American architect to gain international fame.

Richardson incorporated as much light as possible into the design of the buildings. The wards were meant to have a home-like feel for the patients. The grounds were meant to be therapeutic with a park-like setting. Olmsted wanted to incorporate the design of this complex with the park system in the city, which he also designed.

Today, much of the complex suffers from deterioration. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has listed the Richardson Complex (as it is now called) on its “sites to save” list. Attempts are currently being made to rehabilitate the historic buildings and grounds. The state has provided the complex with $100 million after much pressure from the community.

Plans for the future include restoring the buildings and grounds as much as possible, creating Architecture and Visitors centers, opening a boutique hotel, and hosting events and conferences, as well as creating areas for public use. The hope is to create a complex of mixed-use that will encourage tourism as well as create a better living space for area residents.

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