New York State Capitol

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New York State Capitol
An ornate building, several stories high, of light colored stone. Many arches are visible on its front. On its sides are two large towers with pyramidal red roofs, echoed by similar smaller towers closer to the center with stone tops. In front of the camera, at bottom, is a plaza with a wavy-line pattern.
The New York State Capitol viewed from the southwest
General information
Architectural style Romanesque Revival architecture and Neo-Renaissance
Town or city Albany, New York
Country United States
Construction started 1867
Completed 1899
Cost $25 million
Client State of New York
Design and construction
Architect Thomas Fuller
Leopold Eidlitz
Henry Hobson Richardson
Isaac G. Perry
New York State Capitol
Built 1868
Part of Lafayette Park Historic District (#78001837)
NRHP Reference # 71000519
Significant dates
Added to NRHP February 18, 1971[1]
Designated NHL January 29, 1979[2]

The New York State Capitol is the capitol building of the U.S. state of New York. Housing the New York State Legislature, it is located in the state capital city Albany as part of the Empire State Plaza on State Street in Capitol Park. The building, completed in 1899 at a cost of $25 million[3] (worth approximately half a billion current dollars). It was the most expensive government building of its time.[3] It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, then included as a contributing property when the Lafayette Park Historic District was listed in 1978. The following year it was declared a National Historic Landmark.[2][4]


The Old State Capitol, in use from 1812 to 1879

Legislative sessions had been held at different buildings in different places before Albany was declared the State capital in 1797. From that time until 1811, the State Legislature met at the Old Albany City Hall. The first State Capitol was inaugurated in 1812 and remained in use until 1879 when the current building was inaugurated.

Interim plan for the Capitol by Thomas Fuller

The present Capitol was built between 1867 and 1899. Three teams of architects worked on the design of the Capitol during the 32 years of its construction. They were managed by: 1867-75: Thomas Fuller, 1875–83: Leopold Eidlitz and Henry Hobson Richardson, 1883-99: Isaac G. Perry. Fuller, the initial architect, was an Englishman who also designed the Canadian Parliament buildings of Parliament Hill, Ottawa.

The ground floor of the state capitol was built in the Classical/Romanesque style. Lieutenant Governor William Dorsheimer then dismissed Fuller in favor of Eidlitz and Richardson who built the next two floors in a Renaissance Classical style, noticeable on the exterior two floors as light, open columnwork. The increasing construction costs became an ongoing source of conflict in the legislature, and it was difficult to secure the funding necessary. Eidlitz and Richardson, were dismissed by Grover Cleveland upon his election to governorship and his review of the increasing costs of construction. He hired Perry to complete the project.[5] The legislative chambers, the fourth floor and roof work were all finished in Victorian-modified Romanesque that was distinctively Richardson's design. It "was Richardson who dominated the final outcome of the grand building, which evolved into his distinguished Romanesque style" (which came to be known as Richardsonian Romanesque).[5] It is claimed that Richardson was imitating the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in Paris, France.

Capitol building in 1919, photograph taken from Madison Avenue, southwest on hill

The central open court is dominated by a shaft intended to support a massive dome. The dome and tower were never completed, as it was found that the weight of the building was already causing stress fractures and actually to make the building shift downhill toward State Street. To stop this movement, a very large, 166-foot (51 m) long exterior Eastern Staircase was added to support the front facade. The Capitol exterior is made of white granite from Hallowell, Maine, and the building incorporates Westchester marble cut by state prisoners at Sing Sing. The granite structure is 220 feet (67 m) tall at its highest point, and it is one of eleven U.S. state capitols that does not have a domed roof. Underground tunnels connect it to the Empire State Plaza and Alfred E. Smith Building. The building's exterior underwent restoration from 2000 until fall 2014.[6][7]

The Assembly Chamber was built with the largest open arched span in the world. However, this produced very inconvenient acoustic results. A more serious problem was that the shifting foundations of the whole structure made the vaults unstable. A lower false ceiling was introduced to prevent rock shards from the vaults from falling to the assembly floor.[8]

The Capitol initially featured two large murals by Boston artist William Morris Hunt painted directly onto the sandstone walls of the Assembly Chamber. The two enormous works, named The Flight of Night and The Discoverer, each some 45-feet long, were later covered when the Assembly's vaulted ceiling proved unstable and the ceiling was lowered four feet below the murals. Earlier, the murals had been damaged by moisture in the building and had begun to flake. Plans for later murals by Hunt were abandoned due to lack of funding, and some people have speculated the resulting depression experienced by the artist may have contributed to his suicide.[9][10][11]

In front of the Capitol is an equestrian sculpture of Civil War General Philip Sheridan, designed by John Quincy Adams Ward and Daniel Chester French and completed in 1916.[12]

Reputed ghosts[edit]

There have been reports that the building is haunted; official tour guides offers a special Hauntings Tour during the month of October. 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.[13] 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.[14]

Visiting and tours[edit]

The New York State Capitol is open Monday through Friday from 7AM until 7PM. The building is closed Weekends and Holidays. Official guided tours of the Capitol are Monday through Friday at 10AM, Noon, 2PM and 3PM. Tours begin on the Senate side (South) of the building and last about an hour. A Visitor Center for the Capitol can be found close by on the Concourse Level of the Empire State Plaza. [15]


See also[edit]

External video
New York State Capitol (12:29), C‑SPAN[16]


  1. ^ Staff (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "New York State Capitol". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved September 11, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b "New York State Capitol". WGBH/PBS Online. Retrieved 26 September 2015. 
  4. ^ Carolyn Pitts (January 1979). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: New York State Capitol" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved August 23, 2012.  and {{PDFlink New York State Capitol exterior undated photo; 289 KiB}}
  5. ^ a b "8, Finger Lakes". Historic New York: Architectural Journeys in the Empire State. Landmark Society of Western New York. October 30, 2006. ISBN 978-0976391029. 
  6. ^ "Governor Paterson Signs Bill Extending Commission On The Restoration Of The Capitol" (Press release). New York State Office of General Services (OGS). June 4, 2008. 
  7. ^ "Governor Cuomo Announces Completion of Major Restoration Projects at the New York State Capitol" (Press release). OGS. January 4, 2012. Retrieved March 13, 2015. 
  8. ^ "NYS Capitol Assembly Chamber". John G. Waite Associates. Retrieved August 23, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Hunting Ghosts and History at the New York State Capitol". Times Union (Albany). October 27, 2009. Retrieved March 13, 2015. 
  10. ^ "The Horses of Anahita or The Flight of Night". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved March 13, 2015. 
  11. ^ Knowlton, Helen M. (2008). Art-Life of William Morris Hunt. READ Books. ISBN 978-1443773911. (subscription required (help)). 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "1911 Capitol Fire". New York State Division of Education. Retrieved March 13, 2015. 
  14. ^ Leyden, Liz (October 27, 2011). "Spending a Night With Ghosts Where Legislators Roam". The New York Times. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Visiting the Empire State Plaza". Office of General Services. Retrieved March 13, 2015. 
  16. ^ "New York State Capitol". C-SPAN. November 15, 2012. Retrieved March 14, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°39′09″N 73°45′26″W / 42.652553°N 73.757323°W / 42.652553; -73.757323