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Cass Gilbert scholar to present program on State Capitol architecture as part of lecture series


The West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts and the West Virginia Division of Culture and History will present a lecture, “Cass Gilbert and the West Virginia State Capitol,” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28, in the West Virginia State Theater of the Cultural Center in the State Capitol Complex.

The guest speaker will be Dr. Barbara Christen, co-editor of the recently published book, “Cass Gilbert, Life and Work: Architect of the Public Domain” (W.W. Norton & Company, 2001). Christen will present slides of Gilbert’s original color presentation drawings, discussing her research on Gilbert as an architect of public buildings and focusing on his work on the West Virginia State Capitol. Christen will discuss Gilbert’s careful positioning of the Capitol within the city of Charleston, as well as the differences between Gilbert’s original vision for the building and the final product.

The program, which is free and open to the public, will be followed by a reception. Christen will be available to sign copies of her book.

An architect with an international reputation, Gilbert was commissioned to design the West Virginia State Capitol in 1921. Born in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1859, Gilbert studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1912, Gilbert designed the world’s first skyscraper, the Woolworth Building in New York City. His other works include the state capitols of Minnesota and Arkansas, and the U.S. Treasury Building and the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. Gilbert died in 1934, just two years after the West Virginia State Capitol was completed.

Christen is a research associate at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. As executive director of the Committee on Cass Gilbert Projects in New York in 1997-98, her work involved overseeing and curating exhibitions, as well as coordinating building tours and other events addressing Gilbert’s career. She received her doctorate from the City University of New York Graduate Center, and has taught and lectured at several institutions in the New York metropolitan area. Most recently, she traveled to St. Paul, Minn., to speak about Gilbert’s work on the Minnesota State Capitol. Christen lives in Maryland.

The program is part of the lecture series sponsored by the office of Secretary of Education and the Arts Kay Goodwin. For more information about Christen’s lecture, call the Cultural Center at (304) 558-0162.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. Visit the Division’s website at for more information about programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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