Frequently Asked Questions
+What makes this site significant?
The Richardson Olmsted Complex is recognized as a National Historic Landmark, a nationally significant historic place, designated by the Secretary of the Interior, possessing exceptional value or interpreting the nation’s heritage. Fewer than 2,500 historic places bear this national distinction, eight of them in Buffalo. Review our history section or sign up for a tour to find out more about the past, present, and future of the Richardson Olmsted Complex.
+What will the new uses be at the Richardson Olmsted Complex?
The first phase of development will be an 88-room hotel and conference center, and architecture center for Buffalo in the Towers Building and two flanking buildings (one-third of the total historic buildings). Buildings comprising the rest of the Complex have undergone stabilization. Tenancies for SUNY Buffalo State and other compatible not-for-profit and arts and cultural uses are being considered. “Re-greening” of the landscape has started with the South Lawn between the historic buildings and Forest Avenue as a welcoming public space for gathering and recreation.
+Can I host an event at the Complex?
+Is the Richardson Center Corporation going to retain all the buildings or will some be demolished?
The first phase of development will occupy one-third of the buildings (the iconic Towers Building and two flanking buildings). The remaining buildings are being stabilized pending future opportunities. Under consideration for additional buildings are tenancies for SUNY Buffalo State and other not-for-profit, arts and culture uses.
+How was the future of the Richardson Olmsted Complex decided?
+What are the project timeline and next steps?
+How is this project being funded? What are the potential project costs? Is the $76 million in state funding sufficient to complete the project?
The Richardson Center Corporation received $76.5 million in state allocated funds. The funds are administered by Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).
The state allocation is a start; however the costs to complete this project are vast and will require significant additional funding. Private investment, such as the use of historic tax credits, will be utilized. It is anticipated that the first phase of development will spur private interest in developing the remainder of the Complex.
+How will the adjacent neighborhoods be impacted by this project?
The rehabilitation project will have a positive effect on neighboring residential and business districts. The mixed use campus will transform the Complex from a long-vacant, deteriorated site to an active and welcoming place for visitors to enjoy. At each stage in the process, the importance of the adjacent neighborhoods has been emphasized: Grant-Ferry to the west, the Elmwood Village to the south, and Black Rock’s Grant-Amherst neighborhood to the north.
+How has the community been involved in development plan? What is the public meeting schedule?
Collaboration with many organizations has taken place at all phases of the project. Ongoing public meetings have been held to provide updates and obtain feedback on the planning process, and a Community Advisory Group has assisted with the plan development and implementation. The group includes representatives from the adjacent neighborhoods, business districts, cultural institutions, the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, SUNY Buffalo State, and historic preservation organizations. Please click here to join our mailing list for public meetings and updates. Public meeting minutes and presentations can be found here.
+Is the Buffalo Psychiatric Center going to move to another location?
The Buffalo Psychiatric Center will remain on the site and continue operation, primarily on the east portion of the site. We have worked together to develop a plan that will meet both of our needs and allow us to be good neighbors.
+Can I tour the Complex?
+Is photography allowed on tours?
We offer separate photography tours to better meet the needs of photographers and provide for the safety of all our visitors.
+Do you provide ghost tours or talk about the paranormal?
The Richardson Center Corporation focuses on the past, present, and future of the historic buildings and grounds. We are honoring the intent of the Complex as a place of hope and healing for people with mental illness. Horror- or paranormal-themed activities may be perceived as portraying those with mental illness in a negative light. The future of the site as a hospitality venue will draw visitors from all walks of life and we want to be inclusive to all future patrons.
+Do your tours provide detailed information about mental health treatment over time?
Our goal is to provide visitors with a complete picture of the history and significance of the site. Tours focus on the harmonious blend of the purpose-built structures and a healing landscape to produce a therapeutic environment that was considered the best treatment method then available for mental illness in the late nineteenth century. The Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri, the Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health, and the Mütter Museum of medical history in Philadelphia are resources that address the history of mental health.
+Where can I learn more about the Richardson Olmsted Complex?
The following reports, available as searchable PDFs, were commissioned by the Richardson Center Corporation as a first step in planning the future of the Complex:
- Historic Structures Report – provides detailed documentary, graphic, and physical information about the property’s history and existing conditions and serves as a guide for rehabilitation as plans for reuse proceed.
- Cultural Landscape Report – documents the history, significance, and preservation treatment of the historic landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. The recommendations and guidance in this report provide a framework for reuse.
+Where can I do my own research about the Complex?
Recommended resources include:
- The Richardson Olmsted Complex: Architecture/Landscape/Community – a brief video produced by the Richardson Center Corporation and Odessa Pictures, providing an overview of the past, present, and future of the Richardson Olmsted Complex.
- The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States by Carla Yanni.
- The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library – Perform a keyword search on the online catalog, using the phrases “buffalo state asylum” and “buffalo state hospital” (including quotation marks). Use similar search strategies at www.worldcat.org to find additional resources at other libraries.
- The Grosvenor Room at the Buffalo and Erie Country Public Library, 1 Lafayette Square in downtown Buffalo. The Special Collections department has related pamphlets, clippings from periodicals, mounted photographs, scrapbooks, newspapers, and books.
- The Research Library at the Buffalo History Museum, 1 Museum Court, Buffalo, has extensive Richardson Olmsted Complex holdings.
- Superintendent’s Annual Reports are available on Google Books.
- www.kirkbridebuildings.com – Documentation of Kirkbride buildings around the country.
+How do I find out about a patient who lived at the Complex?
Submit a request in writing to the Director of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center including the name of the patient, when the patient was receiving services, the patient’s date of birth, the information needed, and the reason the information is being requested. Questions can be directed to the Health Information Management Department at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, (716) 816-2146.
+Do you have a volunteer program?