Buffalo's Richardson-Olmsted Asylum Being Restored
By Tricia McCarter-Joseph | Online Only | Sept. 18, 2009
In 1869 two businessmen succeeded in petitioning the state of New York to build a mental health facility in the Buffalo, N.Y. area, which became known as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. Abandoned in the 1970s, the state-owned complex is now being rehabilitated, and preservationists are planning a new Architecture Center that they say will support architectural and heritage tourism in the now bustling cultural district.
Three years ago, former New York Gov. George Pataki commissioned the Richardson Center Corporation to explore ways to reuse and rehabilitate the complex, with the help of $100 million in state funding. Massachusetts-based design firm Chan Krieger Sieniewicz is overseeing the master planning of the Richardson Olmsted Complex, which is now undergoing a second phase of repairs. This stabilization process is projected to continue until 2011.
"When it's all said and done, we'll have something magnificent here that nobody else in the country has," Stanford Lipsey, chairman of the Richardson Center Corp. and the Richardson Center Architecture Center Board, said in a statement.
The 19th-century facility was formed by a partnership between architect Henry Hobson Richardson and landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted. At that time it was considered to be one of the most architecturally significant designs for an asylum, a style that became known as Richardsonian Romanesque.
Today only 91 of the original 203 acres remain as part of the complex, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and designated a historic landmark in 1986.
Ten years ago the Preservation League of New York State successfully nominated the H. H. Richardson Complex and three other National Historic Landmark hospitals to the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
"Progress at the Buffalo complex [marks] an important anniversary for the League and the National Trust in our shared efforts to foster the reuse of this extraordinary landmark," says Tania Werbizky, regional director of technical and grant programs at the Preservation League of New York State.
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