Richardson-Olmsted Historic Insane Asylum
May 13, 2018 8:45 PM   Subscribe

Richardson Romanesque with grounds by Olmsted now a hotel. The asylum was abandoned and required much restoration, but now it's become a fancy hotel in Buffalo with the grounds by Olmstead restored. Richardson was such an important architect that his style was named after him. This page on Pinterest shows a number of his buildings, including the Glessner House, where the Mother of Forensic Science lived for most of her life. Richardson Romanesque images
posted by MovableBookLady (19 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Gosh, now even mental illness is being gentrified. That place must be full of pleasant memories. Just add a coat of paint and decades of suffering disappear. Oh, Capitalism, so cheeky.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 9:37 PM on May 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

So.... not just a haunted hotel, but a hotel haunted by the ghosts of the criminally insane. I see somebody in the ur-strata metaverse above ours just did a double-feature of The Shining and Session 9.

2018: The year we gained conclusive proof that God is a hack writer.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 10:25 PM on May 13, 2018

Conrad-Casserole: "Gosh, now even mental illness is being gentrified. That place must be full of pleasant memories. Just add a coat of paint and decades of suffering disappear. Oh, Capitalism, so cheeky."

Alternately: some beautiful and historically important architecture has been rescued from ruin. What was the alternative?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:56 PM on May 13, 2018 [25 favorites]

$123 for a standard double is less than I expected. I owe myself a trip to Buffalo when I get a little money ahead, and this place looks pretty special.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:47 PM on May 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Thanks for this. I'm very interested in mental health institutions from before medication. Like it says in the article, some psychiatrists believed that access to nature was an important part of the healing process, and it shows in the hospitals. Today, there is evidence that their assumptions were correct, and we may be going back to a type of design, where landscaping and beautiful interiors with views play an important part.
posted by mumimor at 2:40 AM on May 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

Oh Yay! This makes me so happy. This building had long been on the endangered list despite being one of Richardson's greatest works and the last I'd seen they still hadn't found the funding to restore it. I really am going to have to head up for an architectural tour of Buffalo soon.

BTW, If you're on Pittsburgh's Northside, there's a tiny gem in the Emmanuel Episcopal Church on North Avenue that Richardson designed as a side project while he was working on the Allegheny County Courthouse.
posted by octothorpe at 4:04 AM on May 14, 2018 [7 favorites]

Conrad-Casserole: "Gosh, now even mental illness is being gentrified. That place must be full of pleasant memories. Just add a coat of paint and decades of suffering disappear. Oh, Capitalism, so cheeky."

It's been abandoned for 45 years and was horribly outmoded as a facility long before that. Did you just want one of the key works of one of America's greatest architects torn down rather than be re-used?
posted by octothorpe at 4:11 AM on May 14, 2018 [8 favorites]

I mean, I don't believe in ghosts and I would definitely stay there in a hot minute because I love old, weird hotels (and scaring the crap out of myself) , but that joint still looks haunted af.
posted by thivaia at 5:05 AM on May 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Wow, this is pretty much exactly what I'd hoped would happen with the Northampton State Hospital, but it was scrapped for copper and bloating the mayor's pocket and ego. The subdivision that replaced it has streets named for the town's former mayors.

I would stay there, if I found myself in Buffalo overnight.
posted by Busithoth at 5:21 AM on May 14, 2018

Too bad they did not do this with Greystone Park in NJ. Woody Guthrie and Allen Ginzburg's mother were inmates there. There was a big push to preserve the grand main building, but in the end the bulldozers won.

Agree, this is perfect setting for a horror movie.
posted by mermayd at 6:36 AM on May 14, 2018

I was going to do a post once on Frances Glessner, mother of forensic science & maker of crime scene dollhouses. She lived in the Glessner House in Chicago. When I saw a pic of that house, I said "wow" and that sent me off on a trawl re Richardson. Cool stuff. Glessner House. If you look down the side street, the entrance halfway down the block is for servants, and a row of servants' bedrooms is on that side, sheltering other occupants from the fierce winds.
posted by MovableBookLady at 7:02 AM on May 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I used to spent a little too much time reading about Kirkbride Plan asylums. I believe this is the one where the corridors were designed with curves in order to prevent them from being stuffed with extra beds later.
posted by lagomorphius at 8:13 AM on May 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

Thank you for posting this - I enjoyed learning about the history and renovation of this old asylum and found the intention behind its design refreshing. I'm also encouraged to see people commenting with more positive takes on a former mental institution. I appreciate any attempt to reduce stigma and promote positive communication about mental health!

Also I don't know the complete history of this asylum, but not all institutionalized people deemed insane are "criminally insane".
posted by danabanana at 8:14 AM on May 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

Olmsted is misspelled in the title of this post and the body. The misspelling has an extraneous "a."
posted by ElKevbo at 8:49 AM on May 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

(Just popping in as a former, low-level employee of Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott architects to say how amazing it is that America's longest continually-operating architecture firm has such a strong sense of its own history. They still employ a full-time archivist who I believe is himself a licensed architect and AIA member. He has a room full of tubes, each containing drawings from a past project. It's so cool, and also he is a pretty cool frood. The firm had a series of art-quality posters printed up of past projects that I found four of, which I am saving for the day I get to decorate a man nerd-cave.)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:29 AM on May 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

I went to the college right next door and lived down the street from this for a few years. It's great that someone finally did something with this amazing old place.
posted by freakazoid at 12:17 PM on May 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

Thanks so much for posting this. I toured this many years ago when redevelopment plans were being explored, and it is great to see it finally come to fruition.

While I know there are many unpleasant associations with mental institutions, and rightfully so given their often shameful history, it is worth understanding that the designers of Kirkbride Plan institutions like this were at least attempting to provide a humane and healthy environment for treatment, unlike many of their predecessors.

The former Northern Michigan Asylum (Traverse City State Hospital) has also been transformed into a mixed use development, with residential, retail, event space, and dining, including the very excellent Trattoria Stella.
posted by Preserver at 10:11 AM on May 15, 2018

They have a pretty tasty Gamay, and some fairly creative dishes. I recommend it.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 7:51 PM on May 15, 2018

This is near where I grew up and have family so I was tempted to check it out. If you’re in the DC area and have an interest in old retired mental hospitals, the DC Preservation League offers tours of St. Elizabeth’s, which was home for Ezra Pound and John Hinkley. And it has some great views.
posted by kat518 at 8:53 PM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

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