Talk about a unique experience. I recently stayed at the just-reopened Richardson Hotel in Buffalo, while on my book tour in the city.
At first glance, you had to be impressed by the majestic, awesomely large structure in a beautiful setting comparable to Central Park on 40 beautifully landscaped acres, in fact designed by the very same Frederick Law Olmsted. The interior was flawlessly clean and spacious with high ceilings, wide corridors, and beautiful wood floors and railings.
Little did I realize when I checked in that the hotel was a former insane asylum, housing patients up until the mid-1970s. But I might have guessed from some tell-tale clues. First, some chamber doors in the hallways were closed off, painted over so you could barely notice. Second, the rooms were extra small. Mine actually was a combination of two rooms. Third, most of the rooms had minimal views. Mine overlooked another wing of the building. Then, some of the vast structure was still empty, in need of repair. In this section of the building, balconies were caged in, a remnant of the past (presumably to prevent suicidal jumps?). Not that hotel was hiding its past -- historical photos of Buffalo's maritime glory days, including many of this landmark dating back more than 100 years, lined the walls.
All this noted, I liked the hotel. It has a great story, fitting well with the theme of my new book,
Silicon Heartland. The staff was extra-friendly (everyone I met in Buffalo was!) The Richardson is conveniently located, nearby the (also) just-reopened AKG Art Museum, which I toured.
And, everything functioned well! Super-speedy wi-fi connections, great water pressure, good heating-cooling controls, a well-equipped business center, and well-lit spaces. You could argue that's not much, but I can tell you that luxury hotels get many of these basic points wrong. There was plenty of space to roam along long and winding corridors, most of them still not occupied while renovations continue. The restaurant was not open yet during my stay but a cafe served pastries.
The hotel, which used to be called the Henry, went into receivership in 2021, a victim of the pandemic. New owner Douglas Jemal, a local real estate developer, took it over in 2022, and are investing $57 million in campus renovations. Jemal rebranded the hotel as the Richardson, after original architect Henry Hobson Richardson. He also owns Seneca One, the city's tallest tower, where my book talk event was held with community leaders, including former Congressman and now real estate developer Chris Jacobs.
I would definitely return for another visit, but I'm glad I caught it now at this early stage of development before all the tourists arrive.
by Rebecca A. Fannin