New York State Capital

Home of the NYS government

At a cost of nearly half a million dollars today, the New York State Capital building is a testament to the architectural achievements of the late 19th century.

Often referred to as the most corrupt state government in the United States, the New York State governing body calls Albany its home. As one of the wealthiest states in the country, thanks in large part to New York City, a capital building embodying power and prestige is only fitting.

Construction on the NYS Capital building began in 1867, only two years after the the bloody Civil War. [1] While ground was broken in that year, 32 years would ultimately pass before the building was officially completed in 1899.Thomas Fuller was the chief architect and was known for designing elaborate government buildings in Canada. However, after nearly a decade he was replaced by Leopold Eidlitz and Henry Hobson Richardson who would see construction through to the end. Outside of the extremely long building phase, the cost was also staggering: $25 million (nearly $500 million today).

Within the building resides the Assembly Chamber, Senate Chamber, and the Executive Chamber. A 150-member council meets in the Assembly room, the largest room in the building, and votes on proposed bills and resolutions, which can total over 2,000 in a given year. The Senate Chamber exudes extravagance. The walls are lined with 23 carat gold leaf. Various marbles and granite were imported from across the globe to construct the interior of the room. Today the Executive Chamber is used for ceremonial purposes only. NYS governors instead opt to use a private office for their personal use.

An interesting aspect of the interior of the building are the intricately carved staircases. Of the many stairs in the building, the Great Western Staircase is the most impressive. So far the theme in the history of the capital building is the painstakingly long construction costs. This staircase is no different. It took workers over 14 years to complete, often being paid very little in terms of wages and having to endure harsh working conditions. However, the end result is a staircase containing some of the world's most detailed stone carvings.

When speaking about the NYS Capital building, or Albany history in general, one must look at the Great Fire of 1911. In the early hours of March 29, a fire broke out on the third flow of the building in the Assembly Library. The fire was purred by the tens of thousands of papers and artifacts that were collected throughout the building. [2] The building had also been touted as "fireproof" and as a result little, if any, fire prevention measures had been installed. One fatality was reported; Samuel Abbott, a 78-year old watchman and a Civil War veteran.

Within the Capital building lies the Flag Room. Containing around 1,000 flags dating back to the War of 1812, they represent all the various units that fought across the globe. [1] Currently, some of the flags are under restoration due to the ill=display conditions in the room.

The New York State Capital building is a wonder to the architectural might and style of the 19th century. Despite numerous setbacks and challenges, the building remains a staple in downtown Albany as a building of beauty and elegance.

Access Information:

Since this is a government building, security is tight. Metal detectors are manned by guards so be aware of what you are bringing with you.

Street Address:

170 State St
Albany, NY 12210 [map]

Official Website:

Cite this Page:

John Epp, “New York State Capital,” Albany Walks for Health, accessed September 19, 2019,
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