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A slow but sure tranformation

The Richardson Olmsted Campus in 2006.

2006 image by Jim Bush; interiors by kc kratt; globe courtesy of Avalon


One of the first articles published under Spree’s new ownership was about the architecture and planning of the original Buffalo State Hospital (11-12/99). In it, architectural historian Francis Kowski revealed that the two towers were meant to evoke “the image of a secure haven for the distraught.” Kowsky also described architect H. H. Richardson’s collaboration with Frederick Law Olmsted, who “believed that simple landscapes of tree-shaded lawns would exert a therapeutic effect on troubled minds,” but left a large space behind the buildings to provide a farm where the institute could raise healthy food for its own use. This land is now mostly the Buffalo State College campus.


Longtime Spree writer Bruce Adams imagined in a 2006 essay what it would be like if the building were demolished, and stated, “Let’s make one thing clear, not a single penny has ever been spent on a building. Rather, money gets spent on the services of stone masons, electricians, roofers, plumbers, and other contractors. Truck drivers, trash removers, painters, and window replacement specialists all take home paychecks. Funds flow into the economy, and of course they generate much more in the long run.”


Interiors from the new Hotel Henry and a Towers-themed snow globe


In the years since those articles, many have commented that they didn’t expect to see the reuse of this campus, but they’ve been proved incorrect. The Richardson Olmsted Campus now houses the Lipsey Architecture Center (set to launch soon) and the fully operational Hotel Henry. With this strong start, another endangered Western New York landmark has been taken off the critical list.            


Elizabeth Licata is editor of Spree.


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