|New York State Education Building|
A feud between a Commissioner and a Bishop, a colonnade of massive marble pillars, a cardinal entombed in stone -- these are the mythic elements of the New York State Education Building's genesis, which is celebrating its centennial this month.
When my grandparents arrived in Albany in May 1911, the building was still under construction. Nestled behind its over-sized frame, the Episcopal Cathedral of All Saints appeared small by comparison. Therein lies the first drama related to the building's construction.
|Nave of Cathedral of All Saints Cathedral|
Enter Andrew Sloan Draper, first Commissioner of Education, who had his own dream: a government building entirely devoted to education, and on a grandiose scale such that it would impress the population with the importance that education should hold in the Empire State.
Both men had their eyes on the same piece of prime real estate across from the Capitol Building. Both men played important roles in the community's life, and both had a plan and a vision for the use of the land. But only one won out: Commissioner Draper.
|Rotunda of Education Building|
The most impressive exterior element is of course the block-long colonnade of 36 massive marble pillars. But let me tell you a secret: they are not solid marble; they are constructed with a Vermont marble facing over steel shafts. Although it was probably the impressive design of the fluted colonnade that won Hornbostel the contract, there was some controversy involved. The columns are of Corinthian style, but Hornbostel modified the classical design by adding some reverse volutes not used by the Greeks.
|Reading Room Vaulted Ceiling|
The building was scheduled to be completed by January 1, 1911, but as with many large-scale construction projects, the work took longer than expected. Unfortunately, if the building had been completed on time, the State Library, housed at the time in the State Capitol across the street, would have been spared the terrible losses it incurred when the Capitol caught fire in March of 1911.
The following sources are a good place to start for more information about the building and its history:
"Celebrating 100 Years: 1912 - 2012 A Guide to the Education Building," The University of the State of New York, The State Education Department; Albany, NY; revised 2012
Celebrating 100 Years, NYS Education Building: Information and History: http://usny.nysed.gov/centennial/history.html
Celebrating 100 Years: Video and Slideshow: http://usny.nysed.gov/centennial/video.html
For more information about the history of the Cathedral of All Saints, go to: