H.H. Richardson in Buffalo - LINKS

H. H. Richardson's
John Jacob
Glessner House
Buffalo State Hospital Administration Building

Glessner House

Buffalo State Hospital Administration Building

Glessner: heavy, rough-cut, coursed (continuous layer of building material), ashlar granite which was quarried in New England

Hospital: heavy, rough-cut, ashlar (squared), reddish brown Medina sandstone – five feet thick, quarried in nearby Medina and transported via the Erie Canal

Glessner: Arched side entry . Note the voussoirs

Hospital: Arched front entry. Note the voussoirs

Glessner: Arch ornamentation over main entry

Hospital: Romanesque arch over main entry. Note the plant ornament at the end of the ribs (detailed below)

Glessner: Tower

Hospital: Twin towers

Glessner: Plant (tree of life) ornamenatation over front entrance

Hospital: Leaf ornamenatation over front entrance

Glessner: Ornamented Engaged capital in front of building: lion?

Hospital: Ornamented Engaged capital in front of building: plant motif

Glessner: Dormer

Hospital: Dormer

H.H. Richardson designed three buildings in Buffalo:

Since both the State Hospital and the Gratwick house were both designed in Romanesque style, it would interesting to compare them. This is difficult since the Gratwick house is lost forever. However, a greater appreciation of Richardson's Romanesque style may be gained by comparing the State Hospital administration building to another Romanesque style building: the Glessner House in Chicago.

The Glessner House
1800 S. Prairie Avenue, Chicago (now a museum)

John Jacob Glessner, a vice president for International Harvester, a farm machinery company centered in Chicago, moved to Chicago from Ohio in 1870. He and his family chose to live on fashionable Prairie Avenue, on the corner of Prairie and 18t. They had lived in Chicago for 15 years,
many of those at a home on Washington Street. He commissioned Richardson, who was the leading architect of the time in Chicago.

The finished granite mansion — completed in 1887, a year after the architect's untimely death. — reminds many of a medieval fortress. Stone grates on the ground-floor windows, and slim openings on the side of the house recall medieval archers’ slits.

This may not be accidental: the Glessners had experienced a break-in in a previous home. Glessner House was designed with a security system/burglar alarm, which may attest to the fear of intrusion.

What my attest to the small windows, grating on the ground floor and other exterior features is that Richardson designed the house as a winter residence, which it was, to have large windows in rooms exposed to southern winter light. For the most part, those rooms are family rooms and also rooms used for entertaining.

Another reason for the imposing exterior facades may be the privacy of the Glessners, who were not seeking an ostentatious home, but one that they were comfortable with and in and one which protected their privacy.

The house is not totally uninviting. The tree of life is found in the stone tympanum over the front door and lions grin in ornament between the egg-and-dart motif and the dentil course.

Buffalo State Hospital
400 Forest Avenue, Buffalo, New York
U.S. National Historic Landmark

The Buffalo State Hospital was the first state asylum in Western New York. It is the first major example of Richardson's personal revival of Romanesque, the style with which his name is popularly identified.

The entire complex was comprised of ten connected buildings, with an additional administration building in the center. Patients were moved into the half finished complex in 1880, but the complete project was not finished until 1895, nine years after Richardson's death.

The administration building has monumental, medieval, double, identical towers (each 185 feet tall), each with four corner turrets and dramatically steep copper roofs mysteriously punctuated with dormered windows, all of which gave the administration building a rather sinister appearance — a complaint also heard about the Glessner house.

A list of features common to both follows.

Architectural Style

Building materials


Broad hip roof with cross gables

Segmental arched entry (voussoir).
Arches are actually Syrian, not Romanesque.

Large arched entry without columns or piers for support

Cavernous recessed door opening

Smooth piers with enriched capitals
Enriched: decorated
Capital: the top part of a pillar or column)

Deeply recessed windows arranged in ribbon-like groups

Exterior ornamentation


Belt courses (a continuous layer of building material)



Color photos and their arrangement 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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