Our free and inclusive Grant Streetscape Ride this coming Monday, August 12th, starting at 6:30pm sharp, brings us back to the Richardson Olmsted Campus, this time on the Buffalo State side by the historic barn at Rockwell Road and Rees Street, pictured below- special thanks to the staff at Buff State for going out of their way to welcome us!
To learn more about Richardson Olmsted Campus and what’s new since our previous visit two years ago, read below from their Historian & Programs and Communication Manager Corey Fabian-Barrett.
When was the Richardson Olmsted Campus built, what was its original function, and when did its current operators move in?
The Richardson Olmsted Campus was originally built as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane starting in 1871. It operated as a state hospital for roughly 100 years, with the last patients moving into a neighboring and more modern facility in 1974. The site sat largely abandoned until 2006, when the nonprofit Richardson Olmsted Campus was created to find new uses for the buildings and grounds. Since then, we’ve been hard at work redeveloping and restoring as much of this National Historic Landmark as possible. In 2017, Hotel Henry opened in the three center buildings as our first tenant and now we’re looking forward to rehabilitating additional buildings in the next few years!
How does the campus contribute to our community currently?
Public access has been a key goal of our organization since the beginning. Because the grounds and buildings were off-limits for so long, it’s been critical to open the doors and make the community feel welcome at the Richardson Olmsted Campus. We renewed our South Lawn to create a public greenspace for our neighborhood, we offer tours to get people inside the building, and we launched a free telephone-based audio tour for those who can’t make it in-person. Saving these buildings, improving accessibility, and sparking respectful conversations about mental health are just a few ways we’ve been able to positively impact our community over the past 13 years.
What are your favorite fun facts that few know about the campus?
The iconic Richardson Towers are…drumroll please…totally empty! Most people think there must be something hiding up there, but actually the towers were built to be entirely decorative. There isn’t anything up there – and there wasn’t historically either.
Bonus fun fact: Many people don’t realize how massive the Richardson Olmsted Campus truly is. The campus is made up of thirteen historic buildings – that’s 500,000+ square feet of space! – plus 42 acres of greenspace. It’s so much more than the Towers Building and South Lawn! We have currently rehabilitated three buildings on-campus with 10 more to go!
What other events happen there?
We offer historical hardhat tours of the abandoned buildings May through September, plus we have a silent movie night on the South Lawn coming up on Saturday, August 17. Hotel Henry also hosts numerous public events, including Soul Candy Project yoga on Tuesdays and Sundays, “Yappy Hour” for dogs on Wednesdays, and their Summer Sundays throughout August.
What’s coming next for the Richardson Olmsted Campus?
Right now, we are hard at work planning for the next phase of redevelopment on-campus. We are working with McGuire Development and Savarino Companies to rehabilitate five historic buildings in the next few years. The current plan is that these buildings will be transformed into apartments, live/work spaces, and a University-Based Retirement Community. You can learn more about these plans on our website.
Beyond attending events, how can community members get involved at the campus?
Community input has been the cornerstone of our reuse efforts, so attending a public meeting is a great way to get involved at the Richardson Olmsted Campus and share your thoughts and ideas for the site’s future. We also love it when people follow us on social media or sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on all the latest.
But the best way to get involved is always to stop by and explore! Enjoy a picnic on the South Lawn, stroll through Hotel Henry’s art-filled corridors, or bring your binoculars to do some bird-watching – we have a family of Peregrine falcons living here if you can spot them! Summer is a great time to wander around and see the Richardson for yourself.