Over 140 Years of History at the Richardson Olmstead Complex

August 20, 2013 Updated Aug 21, 2013 at 10:02 AM EDT

By WKBW Admin

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August 20, 2013 Updated Aug 21, 2013 at 10:02 AM EDT

200,000 pictures of Buffalo's past is stored away in filing cabinets in the Buffalo History Museum, a select few were brought out to view the Richardson Olmstead Complex to look at the past.

Lydia Kondovski the Education Assistant at the Buffalo History Museum gave some insight into the complex and it's history.

"Construction started in 1871 it was partial complete in 1880 where they admitted patients both male and female."

Kondovski says this was a marvel of a structure, the architect...Henry Richardson worked closely with a doctor by the name of John Gray to design and build the asylum.

She says "Back then they put a lot of emphases on the architecture. The architecture was believed to be a response to treating these people. So the buildings were large, very airy, a lot of windows."

Not only was the design of the buildings meant to help patients, so were the grounds.

Fredrick Olmstead and his partner Calvert Vaux designed the complex so the grounds would contribute to the therapy. The front of the lawn, the south lawn that has the front of the building was for recreational purposes, games, exercises, walks. The back of the hospital the northern side was for work. It was called work therapy, moral management and there was a farm back there where the patients would work.

Work therapy or moral management during the late 1800's was progressive for it's time and helped to run the Richardson Complex like it's own community.

"Basically it was the patients that kept the facility going, it was a state funded facility. The doctors of course did their part but it was the patients that did the farming that raised the animals, slaughtered the animals did the laundry made the clothes, mend the clothes, there was libraries, everything that a community would have was located on these 200 acres. Which was mostly run by the patients but it was also a form of their therapy. It gives them a sense of purpose." says Lydia

Compared to the way patients were normally being treated in poor houses where they were neglected and chained to walls. It was a very gentle approach to psychiatric care.