One of greatest Medina sandstone buildings gets new life in Buffalo

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 August 2013 at 12:06 pm

Richardson Olmsted Complex will be renovated to become hotel and architecture center

Photos by Tom Rivers – The twin copper-roofed towers of Medina sandstone rise high above Forest Avenue in Buffalo. The Richardson Olmsted Complex has been a massive Buffalo landmark since 1872.

BUFFALO – It’s one of the greatest buildings ever made of Medina sandstone, the 480,000-square-foot former Buffalo Psychiatric Center. The building was abandoned decades ago and left to die.

But a corps of Buffalo boosters have refused to see the renamed Richardson Olmsted Complex fall apart. The group swayed former Gov. George Pataki and the State Legislature to commit $75.5 million in state funds in protecting and reviving the structure.

Private investors have also stepped in and the site is being reborn as a hotel and a center for architecture.

The ambitious project is often in the news. (Today it is the main story on the front page of The Buffalo News, trumping stories about President Obama’s visit to Buffalo on Thursday.)

The Richardson Olmsted Complex, the former Buffalo Psychiatric Center, is being renovated into a hotel and architecture center. The complex is made of Medina sandstone and was designed by Henry H. Richardson, the first American architect to attain international acclaim.

I toured the Richardson Complex in February with members of the Medina Sandstone Society. The group wants Medina sandstone to be part of the architectural center in Buffalo. Medina sandstone should be part of an exhibit at Richardson, noting the local stone’s role as the building material for some of the greatest buildings in the region.

The Richardson project provides a lot of free publicity for Medina sandstone. I want our local elected officials to capitalize on this and work to establish a Medina Sandstone Trail along Route 31 in the county and assist the Medina Sandstone Society in creating and developing a Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame. The group is working on its first class of nominees. It hasn’t settled on a home for the Hall of Fame.

The renovated Richardson complex is scheduled to open in 2016. That gives us a little time to try to piggyback on that project around here. The restoration of the Richardson will likely be in the news for years to come. It provides a great showcase for Medina sandstone.