Sunday, July 3, 2016

The New York State Capitol

We added another capitol to our list when we toured the Albany, New York building.  This building has to be near the top when it comes to grandeur, as it should be, since planning started in 1866 and the building was not completed until 1899.  It cost over $25,000,000 which is more than the cost of the U.S. Capitol.   
The building was constructed entirely of stone with the lower walls being up to five feet thick.  Hundreds of stone cutters and carvers from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales did all the work by hand.  The exterior walls are granite which is very hard and difficult to carve.  The building has several styles of architecture including Moorish, Gothic, Victorian and Romanesque, each a reflection of the five different architects who designed the building over the years. 
Today the capitol overlooks the Empire Plaza that was built 50 years ago to house all the state government agencies in Albany.  Don't miss the observation deck on the top of the Corning Tower for a beautiful view of the capitol, the plaza, Albany and the Hudson River Valley.
The capitol at the end of the Empire Plaza.  The plaza includes many works of art and fountains.  These are two of the four identical government office towers along the plaza.
Looking down the plaza from the capitol is The Egg, a concert hall, the Corning Tower and the New York State Museum.
A few of the art works in the concourse under the plaza and in the lobby of the Corning Tower.  Almost all the art work in the Empire Plaza complex is contemporary. 
There are three main staircases in the building, The Senate Staircase (here), the Assembly Staircase and The Great Western Staircase.  These staircases were built with granite and Corsehill sandstone imported from Scotland.  The sandstone was easier to carve and the staircases have some of the most ornate carvings in the building.
While there are carvings of many famous people, General Sheridan here, the architect told the carvers to just cover the walls with carvings and to not repeat any, so they often just did faces of family and friends.  The main figures on one floor are from the Civil War and on another floor from the Revolutionary War.
The Great Western Staircase is know as the Million Dollar Staircase.  In addition to the carvings there is a greenhouse like skylight on the roof over the staircase.  While skylights where incorporated into the original design they were later covered until recent renovations.  The need for these skylights was lessened when the capitol became the first public building in the country with electric lights.   
Alexander Hamilton at the top of the column.  This is a great example of the intricate carvings.  It is neat to be able to get a close up look at these unique works of art.
George Washington 
While there are over 150 carvings of famous men there are only eight of women.  This is author Harriet Beecher Stowe. 
Hidden in a small nook in the hall at the bottom of the staircase is a carving of a small devil.  The carver, who was being fired but was told to work out the day, was said to have done the carving as a curse on the building.  The black on the stone is from people using an open flame over the years to see this small figure (pre iphone lights).
The capitol does not have an exterior dome even though one was in the original plan.  But it does have an interior one where the dome was to be.  These scenes of the French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, Civil War and WWI were painted by William deLeftwich Dodge. The plan to remove the floor below were scrapped and it is now the Governor's Reception Room.  
The state seal of New York has the sun raising behind a mountain range overlooking the Hudson River.  The two women are Justice with her sword ready to strike against tyranny and Liberty with her foot on a crown symbolic of the end of the monarchy. 
First U.S. president George Washington and first New York Governor George Clinton.  These paintings are in two different places in the capitol but it is interesting that they are mirror opposites.
The Hall of Governors includes portraits of most New York governors.  These are the four who became president, Martin Van Buren, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt. 
The 63 member Senate Chamber has been restored to its original 1881 appearance.  The chamber is a blend of several different building materials and styles.  The background of the collage above is the ceiling of this chamber.
The 150 member Assembly Chamber.  This chamber originally had a stone vaulted ceiling, but after only ten years it began to collapse and was replaced.
The East side that overlooks the Hudson River was the original main entrance. The public now enters from Empire Plaza.  If you are interested in touring capitols make sure New York's is on your to do list.  It is without a doubt one of the most interesting and ornate that we have seen.


Jan Mains said...

We're planning to tour it either before or after the Escapade. Was this a guided or self-guided tour? See you soon.

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Love the stone carvings, great post!