New York State Capitol

Coordinates: 42°39′09″N 73°45′26″W / 42.652553°N 73.757323°W / 42.652553; -73.757323
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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 styleRomanesque Revival, Neo-Renaissance
Town or cityAlbany, New York
CountryUnited States
Construction started1867
Cost$25 million
ClientState of New York
Design and construction
New York State Capitol
Part ofLafayette Park Historic District (ID78001837)
NRHP reference No.71000519
NYSRHP No.00140.000311
Significant dates
Added to NRHPFebruary 18, 1971[2]
Designated NHLJanuary 29, 1979[1]
Designated CPNovember 15, 1978
Designated NYSRHPJune 23, 1980

The New York State Capitol, the seat of the New York state government, is located in Albany, the capital city of the U.S. state of New York. The capitol building is part of the Empire State Plaza complex on State Street in Capitol Park. Housing the New York State Legislature, the building was completed in 1899 at a cost of US$25 million (equivalent to $774 million in modern dollars[3]), making it the most expensive government building of its time.[4] 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 New York State Capitol was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1979.[1][5]


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 designed by Albany native Philip Hooker, started in 1804, 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, managed by: Thomas Fuller (1867–1875), Leopold Eidlitz and Henry Hobson Richardson (1875–1883), and Isaac G. Perry (1883–1899). Fuller, the initial architect, was an Englishman who also designed the Canadian Parliament buildings of Parliament Hill, Ottawa.

The state capitol's ground floor 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 necessary funding. 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.[6] 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).[6] It is claimed Richardson was imitating the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in Paris, France. The Chazy limestone for its construction was quarried at the Clark Quarry in Essex County, New York.[7]

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 the building's weight was causing stress fractures and making the building shift downhill toward State Street. To stop this movement, a 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. Tunnels connect it to the Empire State Plaza and Alfred E. Smith Building. The building's exterior underwent restoration from 2000 until fall 2014, and significant historical details were restored.[8][9] A previously covered skylight over the Great Western Staircase was uncovered and restored to functionality, and the Ludowici tile on the roof was replaced with new material from the original producer.[10]

The Assembly Chamber was built with the world's largest open arched span. However, this produced very inconvenient acoustic results. A more serious problem was the structure's shifting foundations that made the vaults unstable. A lower false ceiling was introduced to prevent rock shards from the vaults from falling to the Assembly floor.[11]

The Capitol initially featured two large murals by Boston artist William Morris Hunt painted directly on to the Assembly Chamber's sandstone walls. 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.[12][13][14]

The ceiling murals of battle scenes in the Governor's Reception Room are the work of William de Leftwich Dodge.

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.[15]

1911 fire[edit]

In the early morning hours of March 29, 1911, four days after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan killed 165 garment workers, a disaster that led to the state being the first to establish a state Department of Labor, a fire started in the Assembly library. Its cause has never been established; theories suggest either an electrical problem or a dropped cigar. A night watchman was the only fatality, but thousands of volumes in the state library, almost its entire collection, and many documents and artifacts in the state museum's collections, then housed in the building, were destroyed. The flames reached 200 feet (61 m) at one point, requiring the evacuation of nearby homes; the fire took 125 firefighters to extinguish.[16]

Heat from the fire was intense enough to twist framing in a skylight above the building's western stairs and melt their sandstone filigree. The building's southwest corner was devastated. It took three months to clear the rubble and then a year to rebuild it, at a cost of $5 million ($114 million today.[3])[16]

New York State Capitol Building in 2018

Visiting and tours[edit]

The New York State Capitol is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. The building is closed most weekends and holidays. Official guided tours of the Capitol are offered at various times on weekdays beginning at the Information Desk located in the State Street Lobby of the Capitol. There is a Visitor Center for the New York State Capitol and Empire State Plaza, located on Concourse Level of the Plaza near the underground entrance to the Capitol.[17]


See also[edit]

External videos
video icon New York State Capitol (12:29), C-SPAN[18]


  1. ^ a b New York State Capitol. File Unit: National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program Records: New York, 1964 - 2013. U.S. National Archives. Archived from the original on February 18, 2022. Retrieved January 10, 2021. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  3. ^ a b Johnston, Louis; Williamson, Samuel H. (2023). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved November 30, 2023. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the MeasuringWorth series.
  4. ^ "New York State Capitol". WGBH/PBS Online. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
  5. ^ Carolyn Pitts (January 1979). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: New York State Capitol". National Park Service. Retrieved August 23, 2012. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help) and New York State Capitol exterior undated photo; 289 KiB
  6. ^ a b "8, Finger Lakes". Historic New York: Architectural Journeys in the Empire State. Landmark Society of Western New York. October 30, 2006. ISBN 978-0-9763910-2-9.
  7. ^ "Cultural Resource Information System (CRIS)". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Archived from the original (Searchable database) on July 1, 2015. Retrieved February 1, 2016. Note: This includes William E. Krattinger; Darcey Hale; Bruce Hale & Morris Glenn (August 2012). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Ligonier Point Historic District" (PDF). Retrieved February 1, 2016.
  8. ^ "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. Archived from the original on February 9, 2015. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  9. ^ "Governor Cuomo Announces Completion of Major Restoration Projects at the New York State Capitol" (Press release). OGS. January 4, 2012. Archived from the original on April 3, 2015. Retrieved March 13, 2015.
  10. ^ Gawlik, Kate (May 2004). "Gold Circle Award category: Innovative solutions—reroofing". National Roofing Contractors Association. Retrieved February 20, 2024.
  11. ^ "NYS Capitol Assembly Chamber". John G. Waite Associates. Retrieved August 23, 2012.
  12. ^ "Hunting Ghosts and History at the New York State Capitol". Times Union. Albany. October 27, 2009. Retrieved March 13, 2015.
  13. ^ "The Horses of Anahita or The Flight of Night". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved March 13, 2015.
  14. ^ Knowlton, Helen M. (2008). Art-Life of William Morris Hunt. READ Books. ISBN 978-1-4437-7391-1.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 19, 2015. Retrieved September 9, 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ a b Grondahl, Paul (March 27, 2011). "1911 Capitol fire remains seared into city's history". Times-Union. Albany, New York. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
  17. ^ "Visiting the Empire State Plaza". Office of General Services. Archived from the original on March 10, 2015. Retrieved March 13, 2015.
  18. ^ "New York State Capitol". C-SPAN. November 15, 2012. Retrieved March 14, 2013.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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