After much anticipation and years in the making, Hotel Henry and 100 Acres Restaurant, at the Richardson Olmsted Campus, opened to the public on May 1st! Flynn Battaglia Architects (FBA), one of most prominent historic preservation architects in New York and nationally recognized for their work on Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building, has served as the Executive Architect and project lead for the design team for the work on the Campus for the last 4-1/2 years. The project includes a major event center including conference space, an Architectural Center, 4 restaurants, a ballroom and 88 unique guest rooms, in two adjacent buildings on 4 floors.
FBA has been working on the campus since 2012. The efforts of the design team followed the creation of the Richardson Center Corporation in 2007, and completion of an historic structures report and a master plan for the Campus. Members of the FBA team had previously completed work on one of the buildings in 1983, renovated and used temporarily as surge space for the NYS Dept. of Mental Health. Prior to the current involvement, the historic buildings sat vacant; the last patient moved to a more modern facility in 1974. The site and buildings received National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmark status in 1973 and 1986, respectively. The Mental Health Facility opened in 1872, with the administration building including the two male wards on the east side. Over the next 25+ years, the remainder of the Kirkbride plan was completed, plus additional out-buildings, using the master plan set forth by HH Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Calvert Vaux. The full build-out of the plan was ultimately executed by the offices of HH Richardson and the Buffalo firms of WW Carlin, and Green & Wicks.
The Kirkbride Plan, the basis for treatment at this facility, was innovative for its holistic and natural approach to providing therapy to the mentally ill, which at the time was a progressive departure from conventional treatment in health care. At the center of this approach was an immersion of the patients in fresh air, sunlight and outdoor activity including farming and recreation. The impact of this approach on the architecture resulted in a unique floor plan including south facing single occupancy rooms, extremely wide single-loaded south-facing day room corridors, and therapeutic grounds including a working farm. These were fundamental to the healing process according to Kirkbride. The original plan developed by Richardson’s response to the program included one central administration building, 10 distinctive and massive ward buildings, two kitchens, and a power plant oriented on a skewed axis to the surrounding street grid for improved views. The complex has a multitude of character defining historic features. Contributing elements include its wide corridors, generous floor to floor heights, multi paned monumental windows and south facing views. The exterior is cladded in Medina sandstone constructed in Richardson’s distinctive style with a tri-partite organization of building elements, as well as twin copper clad roofed Richardsonian towers over 190’ high, identifying the site on the City’s skyline. As an early work by an American master architect (designed when Richardson was 31 years old) recognized as a father of American Architecture, is evidence of the international significance of this Complex and justify its reuse.
The Design Team documented the building layout and historic features and prepared a design which respects their significance and accomplishes the adaptive reuse hospitality program requested by the client. Significantly and most recognizable in the new plan, is the most dominate historic defining feature of the Complex, the wide corridors in each of the former wards, These corridors provide a guest experience unlike few others in the hospitality world, allowing guests to step out into a sun drenched “front porch” or “living room” like setting, adjacent to the majority of the rooms. This area is designed as a break-out area for conference sessions and small gatherings. The original grand volume of the rooms is preserved in the public areas, particularly the ballroom which occupies the entire fourth floor of the administration building. Visitors can experience this sense of volume throughout the building in guestrooms, public corridors, conference rooms, restaurants, and the former chapel, now the ballroom. The finished space has glimpses of original polychrome finishes including encaustic tile, colored glass, stenciling, caste iron columns and bright brass hardware.
The exterior building shell was repaired and restored, using preservation sensitive techniques on the Medina sandstone, windows, and roofs. Over 1,834 window sashes were completely repaired and restored. Three monumental gable roofs with multiple dormers and damaged sheathing caused by ears of weather intrusion were replaced, including copper trim, downspouts and flashings. The historic and decorative south entrance portico has been restored and will be open for public use. The new north entry has become the primary entrance for Hotel Henry, providing a contemporary glass enclosed entrance, capable of handling large groups as well as providing an accessible entrance to the building. Inside the north entry, the original Richardson sandstone façade, concealed and buried since 1918 has been exposed and restored.
The Hotel grounds are a continuing work in progress. As spring and summer progress, planting will be completed and renewed vegetable and flower species will bloom. Opening later this year, there will be exhibits by the Buffalo Architecture Center and the Richardson Center Corporation, including an event in collaboration with the Buffalo Philharmonic. We hope to see you there, whether it is strolling the grounds, enjoying some food and drinks in the restaurants on the first floor, or experiencing an overnight stay. It has been an honor for our firm to lead the efforts of this project, our fifth completed National Historic Landmark in Western New York. On behalf of the Flynn Battaglia Architects and the design team welcome to Hotel Henry!