BUFFALO — Crazy about American architecture? This is where to see commercial, residential and institutional buildings by America’s most revered trio of architects — H.H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright — all built during the city’s Gilded Age heyday. And the classic downtown is loaded with more fabulous survived/revived structures saved from the wrecking ball.
Buffalo has long trumpeted architectural tourism, but upping that game this summer is the opening of Hotel Henry, an upscale hotel 3 miles north of downtown. It’s retrofitted into a hulking monolith built in the 1870s as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane.
Add an after-dark thunderstorm and the exterior of the four-story, twin-towered main building looks ready to host cast and crew for a horror movie. Inside, though, common areas are already the domain of wedding events.
Local preservationists acquired the derelict property from the state and partnered with a local hotelier that has navigated National Historic Landmark restrictions to launch a chic “urban resort conference center.” High-ceiling rooms are fully wired and dressed in cutting-edge modern. Two or three former patient lodgings have been combined to form each new guest room. Wide and spruced-up corridors lead to small common areas and then to larger open areas in the towers.
The hotel occupies a third of the asylum, which at peak capacity housed about 2,000 patients and staffers.
Three things point to the Henry’s asylum origins: The still-in-place preservation-mandated floor plan makes for a maze worthy of any hospital. Original wooden hallway floors have, in places, necessarily been replaced. And — when dawn arrives — the amount of natural light is spectacular.
The old asylum was…