Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886)
The fact that Henry Hobson Richardson, considered by many to be the nineteenth century’s greatest American architect, left an imprint on Buffalo speaks volumes about the wealth, prestige and influence of the city by the late nineteenth century. Richardson’s greatest local work, the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, was just one aspect of his remarkable ability.
His Buffalo commissions resulted from what we today call “networking.” A local lawyer, William Dorsheimer, had invited Frederick Law Olmsted to come to Buffalo to inspect a site for a large public park. Olmsted suggested that Richardson, then a young architect who had studied at the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in Paris, design a house for Dorsheimer. Built in the French style, it stands at 434 Delaware Avenue.
The Dorsheimer commission led to a productive friendship. In 1877, while lieutenant-governor of New York, Dorsheimer was able to have Richardson, together with Olmsted and Leopold Eidlitz, named to complete the capitol at Albany.
The Dorsheimer residence was one of several projects in Buffalo with which Richardson became involved. In addition to the William Gratwick house (now demolished,) built from 1886-1888, a few blocks north of the Dorsheimer property, at the corner of Delaware and Summer, Richardson prepared designs for a number of works that were never constructed. These included a house for a Dorsheimer associate, Asher P. Nichols (1869-70); churches for both Christ and Trinity Episcopal parishes (1869 and circa 1871); a Civil War soldiers’ and sailors’ memorial arch (1874) proposed for Niagara Square (ground was broken but the necessary funds were never raised); and a library for the Young Men’s Association (1884).
Richardson’s architectural style, “Richardsonian Romanesque,” was adopted by other architects to construct private houses, railway stations, libraries, churches and armories. It was characterized by strength, simplicity and power. Locally, the Connecticut Street Armory and Lafayette Presbyterian Church show Richardson’s influence in their arches, towers and the use of Medina red sandstone.
Chuck LaChiusa, “Buffalo as an Architectural Museum: Henry Hobson Richardson,” and “William Dorsheimer House” .
Also see Reyner Banham et al., Buffalo Architecture: A Guide, (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1981), pp. 33, 132,-33, 166-68; and Andy Olenick and Richard O. Reisem, Classic Buffalo: A Heritage of Distinguished Architecture (Buffalo: Canisius College Press, 2000), pp. 114-15.