Monday, November 21, 2016


Relatively recently we added state capitals and state capitol buildings to our LISTS OF THINGS TO SEE. That meant that on our last trip to New York, we had to take a major detour to get to the state capital/capitol in Albany, which is about 150 miles north of New York City.

Although only the 16th tallest building in Albany, the capitol, with its castle-like turrets, definitely dominates the skyline. Here's a view from the freeway:

New York, originally called New Netherland (with present-day New York City being New Amsterdam), was settled by the Dutch, and I thought this capitol building looked very Dutch:

Compare it to the town hall in Amsterdam: 

However, many accuse the architects of trying to imitate the Hotel de Ville in Paris, which is perhaps a better comparison:
Photo from here
A blend of Italian Renaissance, Romanesque, and French Renaissance styles, the Albany capitol is said to be the most artistically elaborate state capitol ever built in the United States. I love the long walkway that gives visitors ample time to appreciate the majestic architecture. I could imagine red carpet rolling out in front of us as we approached, and maybe a trumpet or two sounding our arrival:

Instead, Union General Philip Sheridan, Albany's native son, welcomed us, which was okay too:

Decorative stonework on some of the columns looks like fine lace:

At first I thought this was a peacock carved out of stone, but look closely--it's a turkey!

Time to go inside. 

Now wait a minute . . . Wasn't it New York City that tried to limit the size of sodas (the so-called "Soda Ban") as a way of promoting better health? And yet the state capitol has huge, crowded Dunkin' Donuts in the lobby? (I'm so jealous.)

The Father of Our Country is honored near the entrance. Several Revolutionary War battles occurred in New York State, and near the end of the war Washington and his army were stationed in New York. Washington was inaugurated as President at Federal Hall in New York City, the capital of the United States at the time, on April 30, 1789. Beneath Washington's portrait are a set of links from the great iron chain that stretched across the Hudson River during the Revolutionary War to prevent British vessels from traveling upriver. The chain was 600 yards long and weighed 65 tons:

I'm not sure who this is, but I dig his flying Dutchman hat:

I LOVED the inside of the Albany Capitol. I'll try to restrain my adjective use, but it will be difficult.

Look at the rainbow of marble strips on the wall:

Not to mention the beautiful tile work:

A kaleidoscope of  tile patterns lie like marble quilts underfoot:

The building, completed in 1899 after 32 years of construction, cost $25 million, or over $700 million in today's dollars. It was the most expensive government building of its time and is regarded as one of the finest examples of Romanesque Revival (ground floor) and Neo-Renaissance (legislative chambers, fourth floor, and roof) in the world.

Marble, intricate stonework, arches, passageways, and three grand staircases fill the building:

Over 500 stonecutters and carvers worked on the interior and exterior of the capitol. The detail is mind-boggling:


Pensive faces peer at visitors from unexpected places:

Altogether there are 77 people of importance carved into borders, railings, and niches. Had I known that, I would have gone on a scavenger hunt for more faces!

Interesting light fixtures lure unsuspecting guests down deserted hallways and up to quiet balconies:
Whispers echo in mausoleum-like rooms:

No wonder many New Yorkers believe these rooms and halls are haunted by the artist William Morris Hunt (whose murals were covered up during remodeling) and others:


We took flight after flight of stairs to the top. . .

. . . but there are ornate elevators for the less energetic:

Skylights like this one provide the light that filters down the stairwells:

Windows in the upper levels frame interesting views of the outside of the building:
. . . and of city scenes:
One of the most iconic rooms in the capitol is the Assembly Chamber:

We visited the capitol on a Tuesday in April. You'd think it would be full of legislators, staff, couriers, etc., right? Wrong. We saw a person here and there, but most of the time the halls were empty:

The capitol also serves as a history museum and has several specialized rooms.

The Hall of Governors was fun. The first governor of New York, George Clinton, served from 1777-1795 and again from 1801-1804. He signed the Declaration of Independence and was Brigadier General during the Revolutionary War. In 1804 he became the first elected Vice President of the United States, serving under President Thomas Jefferson, and then under President James Madison.
There have been 56 governors of New York (four serving more than one term), including some pretty big names. Four of them went on to become President of the United States. The Hall of Governors has paintings of most of them, but I'll just give you a few names:  George Clinton, John Jay, Martin Van Buren, William Seward, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Nelson Rockefeller, Mario Cuomo, and Andrew Cuomo. Impressive, huh? However, I'm a little surprised there hasn't been a woman governor.

Here's the breakdown of governors by political party:
Democrat-Republican (an early party that doesn't exist anymore): 7
Federalist: 1
Whig: 5
Union: 1
Republican: 17
Democratic: 25

Another area honored influential women from New York, which includes Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt (all suffragists and feminists), and Elizabeth Blackwell (the first female to receive a medical degree in the U.S.).

New York State has also had some trailblazing women attorneys, including Jane Bolin, the first black woman to get a law degree from Yale and the first woman judge in the United States. She was appointed by NYC major Fiorella LaGuardia in 1939:

. . . Constance Baker, the key Civil Rights leader and first black woman federal judge:

. . . and Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman nominated to be Vice President by a major party. She was Walter Mondale's running mate in 1984:
It's hard to believe that we've gone 32 more years since Ferraro's nomination without actually electing a woman President or Vice President.

There was a room dedicated to the policies and achievements of Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

Another area focused on the labor movements that began in New York. I was especially interested in the information on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, a company in the Greenwich region of New York City that employed mostly immigrant women to make "shirtwaists," a common 19th-century woman's blouse:
A fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911 killed 146 people--123 women and 23 men. Most of the women were young Jewish and Italian immigrants. It was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city. The fire led to legislation that improved safety on the job and spurred the growth of garment worker labor unions.

And finally, the War Room has brilliantly colored murals depicting events in New York State's military history:

Check out this spectacular ceiling medallion:

The elegant New York State Capitol Building is definitely worth the drive to Albany. If you can stop at Hyde Park on the way to catch the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, that's even better.


  1. The New York Capital was a fun stop, but did not seem anything remotely like NYC. Hard to believe NYC is governed, at least partially, from Albany. I loved the architecture outside, but the inside is down my list of favorites.

    1. In contrast, I LOVED the interior--all the elaborate stonework was spectacular, and the massive staircases were very impressive.

  2. This has got to be one of the country's most spectacular Capital buildings, inside and out.