Our latest quest to visit all 50 capitol buildings took us to the New York State Capitol in Albany. This has to be one of the most interesting and remarkable state capitols we have seen. Up until this point, I think the one is Salt Lake City was the best, but this one definitely gives it a run for its money. It looks more like a mansion than a state capitol. It took 32 years to “complete” at a cost of $25 million which is approximately half a billion current dollars. As you would imagine, it was the most expensive government building of its time.
We actually checked out part of this capitol twice. We walked around one evening right before they closed, but decided to take a tour the next morning. It was dark and honestly felt a little eerie. There is also so much history, that we decided an official tour was in order.During our tour we learned that the street that the New York State Capitol is located on is called State Street, but was originally called Yonkers. It also happens to be the oldest street in Albany and its original “Main Street”. The exterior of the building is made of white granite and marble, and is 220 feet tall at its highest point. Original plans called for a dome, but finances terminated that goal. As such, the New York State Capitol is one of the few state capitols that do not have a dome.They state that the capitol was designed to be a monument to democracy and a source of pride for all New Yorkers. It replaced a modest 1809 state house which stood near the Eastern approach of where the capitol is today. They gladly boast that in 1979 it was declared a National Historic Landmark.Inside the building there are three massive staircases. The most known staircase of the three is the Great Western Staircase. Also known as the Million Dollar Staircase, it has 444 steps with 77 “faces” carved into the walls alongside the staircase. Truly amazing. Over 500 stoneworkers produced these carvings which include G. Washington, A. Lincoln, U. Grant, and S. B. Anthony. There were quite a few staircases and they were all amazing.
Like most other capitols, they have two Legislative Chambers. They have the Assembly Chambers with over 150 members presided over by the Speaker. The other Chamber is the Senate Chamber with 63 senators who are presided over by the Lieutenant Governor. Sadly there weren’t in session, but we were still able to see the rooms and take some pictures.Another interesting thing that they have at the New York Capitol State Capitol Building is what they call the Flag Room. This room displays over 1,000 different flags contained in large cases. Some of the flags on display include: Civil War, Spanish-American War, and flags from the World Wars. Regimental flags from the Battle of San Juan Hill and 37th All Irish Regiment, and the Civil War 20th and 26th Regiments are also on display.I also wanted to make note that apparently I was not alone at feeling a little weird at the capitol the night before. According to our tour guide that there been reports that the building is haunted. The best-known ghost is alleged to be that of Samuel Abbott, a night watchman who died during a severe fire on March 29, 1911, a fire that also destroyed half a million books while sparing sacred Iroquois artifacts. If that’s not enough, a ghost haunting the Assembly chamber, supposedly producing cold spots and occasional flickering lights, is believed to be William Morris Hunt, angry over his work being concealed. Another one is said to be a local fruit vendor, despondent over his business, who committed suicide in 1890 by jumping off the staircase to the Senate chamber on the fourth floor. No wonder I felt so weird.Even with the possible ghosts running around, it is an marvelous building and truly worth visiting when in New York. It’s not too far from the city, but a world away. We walked around the front for a while and took a few pictures. It is really gorgeous. If you haven’t seen it yet, I hope you can make it one day.
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