The New York State Education Building
Albany, New York
The location of the Education Building is 89 Washington Avenue, Albany, New York. The Education Building was specifically built near the Capitol building to add to the surroundings of Capitol Hill.
The man responsible for the construction of this building
was Dr. Andrew Sloan Draper, New Yorks first Commissioner of Education.
Returning to Albany in 1904, Draper had just finished a successful building
campaign as President at the University of Illinois. Now, as
the new commissioner, the Republican politician was pushing for a separate
Education Building to provide more space for the growing agency.
Draper thought the Education Building should impress the common people
and represent a temple to education and the power of knowledge in
the Empire State.
In 1906, after two years of negotiations with the New York State legislature, Draper secured a suitable site near the Capitol building. W.C. Doane, the Episcopal Bishop in Albany, had just finished the choir and chapter house at All Saints Cathedral on South Swan Street. W.C. Doane viewed this entire block as his domain. While Doane was traveling abroad, Draper used his political influence to snatch up the property and forever obscured the view of Doanes new building. The new building cost approximately 4 million dollars and was the first American office building constructed solely for the purpose of education. The Education Building was finished on January 1, 1911 but was not dedicated until November of 1912. This delay was a costly one because in March of 1911 a fire in the Capitol Building destroyed some of the State library collection soon to be housed in the fireproof wings of the new building. Over 450,000 books and 270,000 manuscripts and journals were lost in this disaster.
The building housed the State museum and Library for almost seventy years. However, due to the lack of space, The State Museum was moved to the top floor of the Empire State Plazas Cultural Education Center in 1976. The State library moved soon after to the same building in 1978. Most of the upper floors were used for storage or office space through the 1980s and 90s and sadly, fell into disrepair. However, in 1998, renovations began in both the reading rooms and upper floors, returning them to their former glory.
A design competition was advertised and 63 architects
responded. A board of directors was set up to single out the 10 best
proposals. These architects were then invited back to submit fresh drawings
for a final count. The building had to extend across a long city
block, with the property in front of the building extending 660 feet.
It would also have to blend in with a row of business structures across
the street and represent Drapers vision as a temple to education.
Henry Hornsbostle, the architect chosen for the project, was trained in Paris, and his firm, Palmer and Hornbostle, designed the Education Building following a neoclassic design. Known for his innovations with classical architecture, Hornbostle could figure out design problems that other architects found difficult. For example, one issue was the design flaw created by raising upper floors in the new building to house the New York State Museum. Hornbostles solution was to replace the stone pillars with steel frames to reinforce the 36 columns supporting the extra weight needed for upper floors. The steel frame was then incased in Indiana limestone still give the building a neoclassic appearance.
Inside the Education Building, on the second floor,
there is a T-shaped hub, equipped with skylights, and a Neo-Roman rotunda
of Indiana limestone. At the junction of barrel-vaulted corridors,
one can observe the grand entrance to the reading
rooms of the former state library. Along the staircase,
painted by William Low. Chancellors hall is a mixture of Greek and
Renaissance ideas. Other Hornbostle designs include an upstairs gallery,
and a two-story auditorium that seats 900 people. In front
of the building is the longest colonnade in the history. The
36 columns follow a Corinthian order, and other ornaments are tarra cotta.
The front steps on Washington Avenue are made of granite and are equipped
with two electrolier (close
up) by Charles Keck. The theme of the sculptures is children
absorbed in academics pursuits. Keck used his nieces and nephews
as models for the groups around the electroliers. Keck also
designed other sculptures around the building including the memorial to
inside the front entrance way.
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