True Green Cities / Celebrating Six Years – A Night in Hotel Henry

    It’s been six years since I launched Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture + Planning, PLLC an

The new hotel entrance at the northern side of the Towers.

The new bar in One Hundred Acres, the restaurant on the first floor of the Towers and Hotel Henry. This was formerly the Matron's Office.

New lighting fixture next to a restored plaster medallion.

while many things have changed, my goal to work on “greening what’s already here” continues to be met, often in places I never expected.  Many people are finding new ways to integrate historic preservation and green building practices, which makes my new venture a delightful and intellectually inspiring one.  This is blog one of my anniversary week. I wrote my first architectural history paper on the Medina sandstone at the former Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane in 1880. My professor sent me there to examine the stone and I was hooked. In 1986 I graduated with my Masters in Historic Preservation having completed my thesis on an adaptive reuse of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. This weekend, 37 years later from my first walk on the grounds, my friends and colleagues from the Richardson Center Corporation and the Buffalo Architecture Center boards and I ate dinner at One Hundred Acres and spent the night at the Hotel Henry. Our boards have worked with some of the best consultants in the world for the past 11 years to reactivate this National Historic Landmark.   The Hotel Henry Urban Resort and Conference Center is the first use to open this month in the former asylum. Later this year the Buffalo Architecture Center opens. We rehabilitated the three core buildings of the complex, stabilized the rest. Our board is currently conducting a Phase 2 study to determine the best approach to the remaining buildings and land.  

The former day rooms of the asylum have become the Hotel hallways.

Adaptive reuse is one of the best ways to green what's already here. We restored all the original character defining features from the exterior masonry, slate roofs on the Towers building, double hung wood windows, height and breadth of the day rooms (hotel hallways), plaster work and stairways. Everything new is modern and minimal. Our project was designed by a stellar design team led by: Flynn Battaglia Architects, Goody Clancy Architects and Deborah Berke Architects.   Over the past month the press has been well deserved for this project and I suspect it will continue to be so through the rest of the year.  One hundred million dollars has been used to stabilize and restore the first phase of this crucial site – through a grant from the State and historic rehabilitation tax credits and private donations. I have documented this project since I started this blog six years ago and will continue to do so.   It’s been a true community project and it is just the beginning. For a full view of the transformation, please view my Facebook photo album.  You don’t need to be on Facebook to view it.   And if you’d like to “subscribe” or follow my blog, True Green Cities, please sign up through the “Subscribe” button at the bottom left of this page. You’ll receive a daily recap when new blogs are posted. Or Sign up for the Feed, also at the bottom left of this page.      

True Green Cities / Reflecting on 2016


Henrietta & Hobson happy in their downtown Buffalo loft.

It would be easy to finish off this unusual and challenging year by ranting about the political and social unrest in which we find ourselves. But instead, I will finish on a positive note and share a some of the good highlights. In thinking about the past year, it seems that the few good things I would like to review resulted from what appeared to be a bad thing at first – so perhaps that is a good way to move forward into 2017.   The Richardson Kittens  

Henrietta and Hobson - feral kittens from the Richardson Olmsted Complex - being socialized in my bathroom.

Probably the biggest impact on my year had to do with the adoption of two kittens I call “The Richardson Kittens” because they were found in the Richardson Olmsted Complex. A couple of my colleagues found a momma cat and her litter of five kittens in one of our vacant buildings on the site in May after an anonymous tip. If you have read any of my blogs over the past five years you will know that my involvement in the rehabilitation of the Richardson Olmsted Complex has been one of the guiding efforts of my education and professional career. Three core buildings of the former Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane are being transformed into the Hotel Henry (a boutique hotel with 88 rooms), a high-tech conference center and the Buffalo Architecture Center. The remainder of the buildings on the site have been stabilized and mothballed. The family of kittens was found in Building 13, a four-story transitional masonry building constructed in 1923 to the designs of architect Sullivan W. Jones as a Male Dining Hall and Kitchen. The exterior of the building appears to be in good condition and the interior is very clean.  

Building 13 at the Richardson Olmsted Complex - where Henrietta and Hobson were found with their 3 brothers and sisters.

The kittens were found on the first floor, living and hiding in the former boiler and mechanical room. Momma (whom we ultimately named “Medina”) seemed to be providing for them well as they were all fat little creatures – their little faces were dirty but they seemed to be surviving on birds and squirrels. We contacted the cat rescue group I’ve been involved in, Second Chance Sheltering Network, and then worked with their master trapper to trap the kittens and the mother. We managed to get the kittens in one night but it took several hours. They were about six weeks old and could scamper and hide under equipment and old furniture so quickly! It took almost a month to capture the momma and in that time she was pregnant again. Given that this complex has many vacant (although mothballed) buildings and over 40 acres, it is amazing that this is the only time we have had to manage kittens. We walked through all the buildings to make sure there were no more cat families, as the thought of becoming a feral cat colony was not appealing, given that a 4 star hotel is opening here in 2017. Fortunately it showed that if you properly stabilize and mothball buildings, creatures will not be able to get in. There was a broken window in Building 13, which is why the Momma cat was able to get in. And sadly we fear that the anonymous tipster also may have been the one who dumped Medina and broke the window.  

Henrietta and Hobson were found in this urinal in Building 13

We learned a lot about cat rescue, feral cat colonies, and fostering as a result of this experience. As someone who has had rescue cats my whole adult life, it was still quite eye opening to become intimately involved in actually rescuing feral cats. Once we captured them, they went to the vet (who also happens to be my vet) to be checked out before being released into foster care. I volunteered to take two kittens to foster. Ultimately I chose Henrietta and Hobson, a tiny Calico girl and a white/orange boy who were bonded. We found the two of them hiding in a urinal – Hobson protecting his little sister. Since I already had four cats (two from Second Chance), I didn’t intend to keep the kittens. They lived in my downstairs bathroom for a few weeks, until they had a clean bill of health and were fully socialized. We were the first people they had ever seen and they were originally quite terrified of us. But once they started free ranging in my loft and meeting my adult cats, a funny thing happened – all six became a wonderful family. Previously a rather dysfunctional group, the kittens brought everyone together. We were exceedingly sad when they left to go to their new forever house but they were meant to live with us. After two weeks in Rochester, for a variety of reasons, they came back to Main Street and here they live, probably the happiest kittens I’ve ever encountered.   Lifestyle Changes  

Hobson was found hiding in the boiler room in Building 13.

So why would two kittens change my life so much? Well, other than the fact that six is an awful lot of cats, it made me rethink some priorities. About the same time H & H joined our Main Street family, I became very busy as the preservation architect on five historic factories in Buffalo. At the same time I decided to leave the graduate sustainability program at FIT in NYC that I have been running for two years. As much as I have loved teaching and running this program, the weekly commute between New York City and Buffalo had been really tiring me. Having kittens who needed love and oversight, and more than enough full-time consulting work encouraged me to choose to leave the itinerant lifestyle I have had for the past decade and settle in one place. If I have learned one thing over the past year it is to “never say never.” When I first left Buffalo thirty years ago I said I would never move back. But now I find myself happily ensconced in a revived downtown, working on amazing and inspiring projects, having fun with a slew of funny and beautiful cats and looking forward to a new year where I hope I can ignore politics and continue to help my hometown city.  

Henrietta and Hobson today. Still cuddling, and still happy.

Happy New Year everyone, stay positive and stay strong.   And if you’d like to “subscribe” or follow my blog, True Green Cities please sign up through the “Subscribe” button at the bottom left of this page. You’ll receive a daily recap when new blogs are posted. Or Sign up for the Feed

True Green Cities / Celebrating Five Years – A Tribute to Prince

It’s been five years since I launched Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture + Planning, PLLC and while many things have changed, my goal to work on “greening what’s already here” continues to be met, often in places I never expected. Many people are finding new ways to integrate historic preservation and green building practices, which makes my venture a delightful and intellectually inspiring one. This is blog FIVE of my fifth anniversary week. Prince died yesterday at the age of 57.  I was sad that David Bowie and Glenn Frey died earlier this year, but Prince was my coming of age musician, just a few years older than me.  I saw the news when I sat down in my seat on the train back to Buffalo yesterday and spent the next eight hours listening to "Purple Rain" again and again.  I had intended this blog to be about something else - architecture, preservation and sustainability of course - but I think I will honor this genius instead. My Prince Story
Next week's New Yorker cover by Bob Staake.

Next week's New Yorker cover by Bob Staake.

In 2007 I was in LA for meetings and I stayed at my favorite LA hotel, the Hollywood Roosevelt. It turned out Prince was doing two nights of shows at the Roosevelt. My last night there I was awakened at 2 am by the loudest rendition of "Purple Rain" ever. After the official concert he moved into the ballroom and gave an impromptu concert for two hours. My bed was directly over the ballroom. At first I was going to call down to complain, then I came to my senses and said "you can sleep every other night in your life, how often can you have a private concert from Prince?" I walked out into the hall in my pajamas and ran into other guests in theirs. We talked about going downstairs but I slunk back to my room and listened from there. I don't remember what my meetings were that next day but I'll never forget "When Doves Cry" shaking my room. Earth Day Today is Earth Day.  So I suggest perhaps you listen to Prince's "Planet Earth" album from 2007.  I will continue to play his music today and honor the vegan artist who made social justice issues - from environmental consciousness to providing access to reading and books to disadvantaged youth - part of his life.  He showed us all that you could live life on your own terms and make the earth a better place. And if you’d like to “subscribe” or follow my blog, True Green Cities please sign up through the “Subscribe” button at the bottom left of this page. You’ll receive a daily recap when new blogs are posted. Or Sign up for the Feed.
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