The New York State Capitol in Albany – The Empire State

New York State Capitol - FrontOur latest quest to visit all 50 capitol buildings took us to the New  York State Capitol in Albany. This has to be one of the most interesting and remarkable state capitols we have seen. Up until this point, I think the one is Salt Lake City was the best, but this one definitely gives it a run for its money.  It looks more like a mansion than a state capitol. It took 32 years to “complete” at a cost of $25 million which is approximately half a billion current dollars.  As you would imagine, it was the most expensive government building of its time.

New York State Capitol 2We actually checked out part of this capitol twice.  In October of 2015 we had been in Cooperstown to check out the Baseball Hall of Fame, then headed to the capitol. We got into town late but still walked around right before they closed for the evening. We weren’t able to see all we wanted to see, so we decided to take a tour the next morning. It was a good decision because it was dark and it honestly felt a little eerie. However, there is also so much history, that we decided an official tour was in order.

New York State Capitol 3During our tour, we learned that the street that the New York State Capitol is located on is called State Street, but was originally called Yonkers. It also happens to be the oldest street in Albany and its original “Main Street”.  The exterior of the building is made of white granite and marble and is 220 feet tall at its highest point. Original plans called for a dome, but finances terminated that goal. As such, the New York State Capitol is one of the few state capitols that do not have a dome.

New York State Capitol 5They state that the capitol was designed to be a monument to democracy and a source of pride for all New Yorkers. It replaced a modest 1809 state house that stood near the Eastern approach of where the capitol is today. They gladly boast that on February 18, 1971, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and on January 29, 1979, it was declared a National Historic Landmark.

New York State Capitol 4Inside the building, there are three massive staircases. The most known staircase of the three is the Great Western Staircase. Also known as the Million Dollar Staircase, it has 444 steps with 77 “faces” carved into the walls alongside the staircase. Truly amazing. Over 500 stoneworkers produced these carvings which include G. Washington, A. Lincoln, U. Grant, and S. B. Anthony. There were quite a few staircases and they were all amazing.

New York State Capitol - ChambersLike most other capitols, they have two Legislative Chambers. They have the Assembly Chambers with over 150 members presided over by the Speaker. The other Chamber is the Senate Chamber with 63 senators who are presided over by the Lieutenant Governor. Sadly there weren’t in session, but we were still able to see the rooms and take some pictures.

New York State Capitol 7Another interesting thing that they have at the New York Capitol State Capitol Building is what they call the Flag Room. This room displays over 1,000 different flags contained in large cases. Some of the flags on display include: Civil War, Spanish-American War, and flags from the World Wars. Regimental flags from the Battle of San Juan Hill and 37th All Irish Regiment, and the Civil War 20th and 26th Regiments are also on display.

New York State Capitol - OutsideI also wanted to make note that apparently I was not alone in feeling a little weird at the capitol the night before. According to our tour guide that there have been reports that the building is haunted.  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. If that’s not enough, 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. No wonder I felt so weird.

New York State Capitol - UsEven with the possible ghosts running around, it is a marvelous building and truly worth visiting when in New York. It’s not too far from the city, but a world away. We walked around the front for a while and took a few pictures. It is really gorgeous. If you haven’t seen it yet, I hope you can make it one day. Below is some basic information, but they also have more information on their website. Hope you enjoy my pictures.

New York State Capitol Visitor Information

New York Flag

Address:

State Street and Washington Avenue
AlbanyNY 1222

Phone:

518-474-8860

Hours:

Monday- Friday  7 am – 7 pm

Tours:

Guided Capitol tours are currently suspended. I will update once the Wuhan virus is over and everything is back to normal. Here is information on self-guided tours.

Take a self-guided tour of the New York State Capitol and listen to audio as you move along at your own pace. From the magnificent Great Western Staircase to the majestic Senate Chamber, learn more about the history and architecture of New York State’s seat of government.

The Capitol is open to the public Monday – Friday from 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. All visitors are required to pass through security. Closed Saturdays and Sundays.

Download and use the self-guided map of the Capitol to find the audio tour stops.

Directions:

From the North

Take I-87 South (Northway) to I-90 East (Exit 1E). Take I-90 East to 787 South (Exit 6A). Take 787 South to Exit 3A for the Empire State Plaza.

From the South

Take I-87 North (NYS Thruway) to Exit 23. Follow signs for 787 North toward downtown Albany. Take Exit 3 for the Empire State Plaza.

From the East

Take I-90 West to Exit B1. Continue on I-90 West toward 787 South. Take 787 South to Exit 3A for the Empire State Plaza.

From the West

Take I-90 East (NYS Thruway) to Exit 24 for Albany. Continue on I-90 East to 787 South (Exit 6A). Take 787 South to Exit 3A for the Empire State Plaza.

Parking:

Visitor Lot

Located beneath the Empire State Plaza and accessed through I-787 Empire State Plaza exit. Visitors are required to show photo identification upon entry and all vehicles are subject to search by the State Police. This lot has designated accessible parking spaces.

Hours & Fees Monday – Friday

6:00 a.m. – 10:59 a.m. – $10.00
11:00 a.m. – Until Close – $5.00
60 minutes or less, full refund

Hours & Fees Weekends and State Holidays

$5.00 flat charge, pay on entry

Cathedral Lot

Located on Madison Avenue between the Cultural Education Center and Albany Cathedral, and within easy walking distance to the Empire State Plaza and New York State Museum. This lot has designated accessible parking spaces.

Hours & Fees Monday – Friday

6:00 a.m. – 9:59 a.m. – $10.00
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – $5.00
No charge for entry after 2:00 p.m.

Hours & Fees Weekends and State Holidays

Lot open, no charge – During events, all visitor lots are subject to after-hours and/or weekend fees.

Madison Avenue Lot

Located on Madison Avenue above the Cultural Education Center, and within easy walking distance to the Empire State Plaza and New York State Museum. This lot has designated accessible parking spaces.

Hours & Fees Monday – Friday

6:00 a.m. – 9:59 a.m. – $10.00
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – $5.00
No charge for entry after 2:00 p.m.

Hours & Fees Weekends and State Holidays

Lot open, no charge – During events, all visitor lots are subject to after-hours and/or weekend fees.

Grand Street Surface Lot

Located off Grand Street and within short walking distance to the Empire State Plaza and downtown Albany.

Hours & Fees Monday – Friday

6:00 a.m. – 9:59 a.m. – $10.00
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – $5.00
No charge for entry after 2:00 p.m. on non-event days

Hours & Fees Weekends and State Holidays

Lot open, no charge – During events, all visitor lots are subject to after-hours and/or weekend fees.

Elk Street Surface Lot

Located on the corner of South Swan and Elk Street, behind One Commerce Plaza.

Hours & Fees Monday – Friday

6:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – $10.00
No entry between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
No charge for entry after 5:00 p.m.
No double parking after 2:00 p.m.

Hours & Fees Weekends and State Holidays

Lot open, no charge.  – During events, all visitor lots are subject to after-hours and/or weekend fees.

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3 thoughts on “The New York State Capitol in Albany – The Empire State

  1. You were in my old neck of the woods! Growing up we lived about 30 miles from Albany, my sister and her family still live there. Thanks for the memories of visiting the Capitol. If you have time check out Friday Story Time by Lia and her pillow she made for Snowball!

    1. Thank you for the message, Martha. It was quite an interesting experience for sure, and one way different than many other capitols we have been to. Looks like a nice area to visit even though we were only there overnight. Maybe next time we will stay near Troy and explore a little more.

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