Not So Scary Tour… Richardson Olmsted Complex

The Richardson Olmsted Complex (aka the Buffalo Psych Center)… Everyone knows someone who has broke in, may or may not have been arrested, and all the stories they had to tell. For the rest of us law abiding citizens (or let’s face it just plain scared) we could only listen and be jealous. Until now!

A group of friends and coworkers came upon the fact that The Richardson Olmsted Complex was now giving guided tours. Almost immediately a nice sized group formed and we scheduled a tour.

All of us gathered together on a chilly fall afternoon and were given an introduction from our lovely hostess and two other guides. We had to wear hardhats (which are also available for purchase).

The first thing they explained to us was that this was a historical tour rather than paranormal, much to our dismay. This was out of respect for the current Psych center which is on the same grounds.

The Richardson Olmsted Complex was designed by architect Henry Hobson Richardson and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 19th century. Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride also helped design the layout of the wards, where the patients would stay.

The tour started in the main building where the offices and reception area originally were. This part of the building is the most renovated, at the time of the tour. The layers of paint were tested and the current color is the best match they could make to the original paint color. The molding was very detailed and scalloped as close to the original as possible. This building is what houses two famed towers. Unfortunately they were never meant to be used and stairs were never built to get up into them.

The tour then went outside and we viewed the capstone, learning a little more of what the building is made of. The type of stone is Medina sandstone from Medina, NY. It was discovered when the Erie Canal was being dug in Medina. It is harder than normal sandstone and besides being used in the Richardson Olmsted Complex; it is also used in Buckingham Palace and The Brooklyn Bridge.

Back inside, the wings of the psych center were next.

The hallways between the main building and all the wings still had the original floors. The design is intricate, multi-colored and beautiful. The wings are where the wards and patients were located. The hallways are very wide and the rooms small. It was designed this way to encourage the patients to come out into the halls to socialize and participate in activities.

Some were removed in 1927 to accommodate Buffalo State College.

One wing was mostly cleaned and being readied for renovation, but you could still get the feel of what it would have been like to be a patient many years ago. The next wing was not cleaned up and there was massive deterioration. Paint was peeling from most of the walls and ceilings. In this wing there was also a barber shop with its original fixtures.

The tour lasted around an hour. There is a 2-hour tour which includes going upstairs to explore. The tours are closed now due to the winter temperatures, but they do start back up in the spring. Definitely looking forward to going back and the longer tour when they start back up in March!


Written by Buffalo City Life

Buffalo City Life

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