Over the years, the New York State Museum has called a number of locations “home.” The varied buildings that the Museum has occupied over the years help tell the story of the Museum’s evolution from a once purely scientific facility exhibiting mineral and paleontological specimens to a major research and an educational institution dedicated to preserving New York's rich artistic, social, historical, and environmental legacies.
Construction of Old State Hall began in 1797 and was completed in 1799 at an estimated cost of $10,000. Designed by William Sanders, the building was four-stories high and of brick, fronting on State Street with a wing extending back on the west side of Lodge Street. Most notably, Old State Hall was the first public building erected by New York State Government in Albany after the Revolution. It originally housed the State departments—Secretary of State, Comptroller, State Treasurer, Attorney General and the Executive Chamber—until the newly constructed Capitol opened in 1808. Any remaining state offices moved to the New State Hall, built in 1842, and the State Cabinet was then placed in this building as recommended by Governor Seward. The Hall was demolished in 1855.
OLD STATE HALL
Location: State and Lodge Streets
The Geological and Agricultural Hall was designed by architect William L. Woolett, Jr. and completed in 1856. The exterior was of pressed brick with a rusticated cut stone entrance. The main floor was divided equally between the Agricultural Society (east side) and the Curator of the State Cabinet (west side) with the remainder of the building, save two galleries, dedicated to the organization and storage of the Cabinet's collections. By 1867, when the Cohoes Mastodon was first put on display, the collections in every department had more than doubled, filling the Geological Hall to capacity. Within ten years, the Museum had out grown its home and the hunt for additional space began.
GEOLOGICAL & AGRICULTURAL HALL
Location: State and Lodge Streets
The "New" State Hall was built in 1842. Designed by Henry Rector, Albany's foremost architect at the time, it was built in the Greek Revival Style and constructed almost entirely of marble quarried at the State prison at Mount Pleasant (today known as Sing-Sing) at a cost of $350,000. It's two crowning architectural achievements included a forty-foot in diameter hemispherical dome that provided light to the rotunda and the second and third floor galleries, as well as a stone staircase from the main hall to the third floor that cantilevered from the wall with no visible means of support. Unfortunately, in the process of major renovation (over 80% of the building's original marble was replaced), a fire broke out in October 1958, destroying the original roof and dome.
(Court of Appeals Building)
Location: Eagle and Pine Streets
ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY OF THE CAPITOL
In 1867, British architect Thomas Fuller initiated the design of the Capitol building. However, eight years later, Fuller was replaced by two prominent American architects, Leopold Eidlitz and Henry Hobson Richardson who had to assume design after three stories had already been built. The finished Capitol took 32 years to build, from 1867 to 1899 and cost a staggering $25 million dollars. Measuring 400' long by 300' wide, the Capitol has five stories with a full basement and attic. It is constructed principally of gray granite and has walls over sixteen feet thick at the foundation. The 1911 fire that destroyed a portion of the Museum's collections also devoured the State Library, burning over 450,000 books and 270,000 manuscripts. It was one of the greatest library disasters of modern times.
NEW YORK STATE CAPITOL
Temporarily housed the museum's anthropological collections
In the early 1900s, a design competition was devised by Dr. Andrew Sloan Draper, New York’s first Commissioner of Education, to construct an edifice that would “stand in the popular mind as expressive of the State’s concern in education.” The architect selected, Henry Hornsbostel, designed the Education Building following a neoclassic design. It was built between 1908- 1912 for a total cost of $4 million. The prominant feature of the structure is the colonnade fronting Washington Avenue with its 36 Corinthian fluted pillars of marble from Danby, Vermont. These huge columns are 90 feet tall and 6.5 feet in diameter at their base and, most notably, form the longest continuous colonnade in the world measuring 520 feet in length.
STATE EDUCATION BUILDING
Location: Washington Avenue
The eleven story, 1.5 million square foot Cultural Education Center houses not just the State Museum, but also the State Library and Archives, as well as the main offices of New York State Office of Cultural Education. The center was constructed as part of Governor Nelson Rockefeller's 98-acre Empire State Plaza, built between 1965 and 1978 for $1.7 billion. Originally, an “Arch of Freedom,” a monument to the Emancipation Proclamation, was to have been constructed at the south end of the plaza where the Cultural Education building now stands. The arch would have stood above a four-story platform that would have provided space for just the State Museum, but it was eliminated as it did not create enough of an architectural anchor to the Capitol Building at the opposing end of the plaza.
CULTURAL EDUCATION CENTER
Location: Madison Avenue