Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cultural Education Center

On the south end of the Empire State Plaza, directly opposite the state capitol, sits the Cultural Education Center, an imposing monument of a building that houses the New York State Museum, the state library and archives, and the New York State Office of Cultural Education.

The CEC seen from the Dunn Memorial Bridge.

The building was finished in 1976. A grand stair rises up from the plaza, crossing over Madison Avenue, to a platform where the main bulk of the eleven-story building sits. The stair is designed to serve as seating for a stage that's built on the plaza level below.

Great marble-clad columns and arches support the bulk of the building.

When I worked in the plaza, I would often spend my lunch hour wandering around inside the museum, taking in exhibits reflecting the history and culture of the state. There is a collection of rocks and precious stones, a hall of birds and small mammals, dioramas of the last ice age and many scenes of the daily life of the native populations of New York State, exhibits on the Adirondack mountain range, the old lumber industry, New York City's history, buildings, and subways, and a recently added somber exhibit of wrecked pieces of the World Trade Center.

The stair on the left over Madison Avenue.

I understand that the original concept for this end of the plaza was to build an arch, kind of like the gateway arch that stands in St. Louis, Missouri. I'm not sure how or why that idea was scuttled, but I think I'm glad it was. The building that was built here is grand and serves a purpose. The arch would have been a bit hokey, in my humble opinion.

A lot of marble went into the construction of the plaza buildings.

The building sits as a symmetrical counterpoint to the state capitol it faces. One quarter mile separates the two buildings in space; nearly a century separates their style in time. The grand arches and glassed-in lobby make the building seem to float above its platform. The museum is located below the platform on the ground floor the building.

A life-sized mastodon in Upstate New York.


  1. That old church looks almost ugly next to the clean modern lines of the newer buildings. They look rather smart, grand and business-like.

    What does "hokey" mean ?

  2. First of all, welcome home. I know you must be DEE-LIGHTED. It just wasn't right without you there.

    Having said that, I've been enthralled by your NY State Capitol Complex stories. What an architectural tour de force...a modern day Acropolis. I will now begin to do more research. The guiding hand of Nelson Rockefeller is certainly at work here.

    Good luck defining "hokey" without offending anyone. :-)

  3. Jean, hokey means, to me, something like, amateurish (like, in its design and conception), and it suggests something that is unsophisticated and unrefined -- definitely something that would not be considered "classic" as the years went on.

    How'd I do, Bill? :)) Let's see what other folks would offer to expand on my explanation. :)

    p.s. I'm sure that Walt meant that an Arch there in albany would have seemed hokey, but OUR arch here in St. Louis, is NOT hokey ;))) It's rather grand (and it's really huge and well made) :) And, considering that this area really WAS the gateway to expansion into the West, its symbolism, situated as it is on the banks of the Mississippi, between Illinois and Missouri, is lovely. Since we're mentioning it, here it is, in all its glory:

    and here

    and here!

  4. ooops.... I meant to Capitalize Albany :))

  5. Very good on the "hokey" definition, Judy, but you lost points for the Freudian slip on "a"lbany.

    I, of coarse, must agree with you about the grandeur of the St. Louis wife grew up in St. Louis.

    p.s. Word verification is "ingst"...another kind of angst?

  6. Have I not gone far enough back in the archives to discover what happened in your life that you should end up in France?

    France seems so much more YOU than Upstate NY.

  7. Wonder if the mastodons will re-appear in the new ice age?

  8. Stephen, as I've observed it (and pieced it together), Walt's is a tale of:
    1. Studying abroad in Paris
    2. Enjoying the heck out of said year abroad
    3. Meeting "the one" during said year abroad
    4. Sharing, with "the one", a constant pull for return to France over the years
    5. Finally grabbing the chance when the moment came, and giving up the hectic big city American life for a return to life with abundant garden, wine, baguette, and countryside adventures

    Bill, your wife grew up in St. Louis?! Where!?


  9. judy, good job on hokey. I would ad contrived and artificial, to your definition.

    bill, I am glad to be home again, but I had a great visit.

    stephen, it's a long story, and I'm not sure I've told it all... but judy's short version is pretty close!

    starman, interesting question...


Pour your heart out! I'm listening.