New York Capitol
Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
192Trip End Oct 14, 2011
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I went to the New York Capitol Building today. I had a bit of trouble finding it. It's a big, old building that looks official but it doesn't look like most capitols. I drove past it a couple times before deciding it must be what I was looking for. I found parking and headed for the capitol.
The building is being renovated and many of the entrances are currently closed. I eventually found an open entrance and went in. A tour had just left and the next tour wasn't for nearly two hours so I started exploring the building on my own. They have no booklets for self-guided tours. They ran out about four or five years ago and the guides are still waiting to be re-supplied. They used to have audio guides but they weren't very reliable and enough of them broke that they stopped offering the tours until they got more audio guides. That also was four or five years ago.
One of the first unusual features I discovered was a pair of bathrooms that are totally unmarked. Now I've seen bathrooms that are intended to be used by one person at a time that weren't labeled but this is the first time I've seen large, multi-person bathrooms that were unmarked. I can't imagine why someone thought this was a good idea. It must make for some fun moments.
Portions of the interior are being renovated. I found the Assembly and Senate Chambers but I could only go into the Senate Chamber on a tour. I was surprised to find a pair of gates by the metal artist Albert Paley outside the Senate Chambers.
I caught the next tour. We went to the Assembly and Senate Chambers, the Great West Staircase, the Executive Chamber, the Capitol Flag Room and many other public areas of the building.
The building cost $25 million and took 32 years to complete. It needed extensive repairs before it was even completed. The original ceiling in the Assembly Chamber started to crack and large chucks of stone started falling toward the Assemblymen so it was re-designed and re-built. The new design covered two large murals that William Morris Hunt had painted on the original ceiling, hiding them from public view.
Twelve years after the building was completed there was a large fire caused by the electrical wiring that was being added to the building and more re-building was done.
The Great Western Staircase is also known as the Million Dollar Staircase. It took 14 years and over a million dollars to build. They covered the skylight during World War II so that it wasn't visible at night. Over the years they changed the lighting since the stairs were so dark without the skylight. They decided in 1979 to renovate the staircase. They finally started the work in 2001 and finished it recently. It only took 60 years to uncover the skylight.
After I left the capitol I headed through the underground passage below the Empire State Plaza, a complex of buildings adjacent to the capitol. The Empire State Plaza was built between 1959 and 1976 and includes a number of government buildings. It was the idea of Governor Nelson Rockefeller. While wandering through the underground passage I saw a sign about an observatory in the Corning Tower building so I headed there. At 589 feet, it is the tallest skyscraper in the state of New York outside of New York City.
The view from the Corning Tower was less impressive than I had hoped. After a quick look around, I went back down and wandered around the Plaza. One of the more interesting buildings is The Egg, an egg-shaped performing arts venue. When I was done wandering around the Empire State Plaza I headed for Vermont. New England has had floods recently and there were quite a few detours and damaged roads but I eventually made it to Montpelier, VT.