Buffalo Psychiatric Center
In 1870 H. H. Richardson, whose office was in New York City, was chosen as architect; at the same time, A. J. Warner of Rochester was named supervising architect. Groundbreaking ceremonies took place in June 1871, and the first patients were received in the half-finished complex in 1880. The entire complex was eventually completed in 1895, nine years after Richardson's death.
Richardson's design, executed in rough, rock-faced reddish brown Medina sandstone, five feet thick, is the first major example of his personal revival of Romanesque, the style with which his name is popularly identified. The hospital consisted of connected pavilions, ten in all, stretching from either side of the administration building in the center.
The administration building has monumental, medieval, double, identical towers (each 185 feet tall), each with four corner turrets and dramatically steep copper roofs mysteriously punctuated with dormered windows, all of which gave the administration building a rather sinister appearance. The five pavilions to the east (the outer three were demolished in 1969) were constructed first. Richardson wanted all of the buildings to be constructed of stone, but for reasons of economy the outer pavilions were constructed of brick, a change to which Richardson agreed. The wards on each floor of the pavilions provided a home-like atmosphere for patients, most of whom occupied private rooms overlooking the grounds. Sitting rooms (some with fireplaces) and dining rooms were included on most floors, and long, bright corridors on the south side of each ward served as recreation areas during the day. (The ugly, iron-grated porches that disfigure the fronts of the patients' quarters are later additions.)
Closed to patients in the 70s, and abandoned completely in the 80s, the building sat dormant next to the current psychiatric hospital and Buffalo State College. Stabilization and restoration plans have begun thanks to a $100 million NYS grant, with hopes to reuse the building in multiple ways. Fire from a lightning strike burned the Nurses Quarters/Male Attendants Building on the night of June 7/8 2005. It was one of the last remaining outbuildings of the complex, and has since been demolished. An arson fire in 2010 caused $200,000 worth of damage, but was confined to the 2nd floor of the Administration building and did not compromise the building.
The Richardson Center Corporation reopened portions of the main building for tours in 2011. For more information on tours and their future plans for the complex visit their website: http://richardson-olmsted.com/