A few steps into the past

capitol staircase shorpyThe vintage photo blog Shorpy featured a 1905 photo of the capitol's Great Western Staircase yesterday. Be sure to click through to see the large versions of the photo.

That staircase has quite the history. From a state assembly tour of the capitol:

The Great Western Staircase, also known as the Million Dollar Staircase, took an unheard of 14 years to construct, from 1883-1897 and cost, more than one million dollars. The delays in constructing this magnificent staircase were two-fold. Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and built by Isaac Perry, the staircase contains 444 steps and reaches 119 feet high. is renowned as an outstanding example of American architectural stone carving excellence.

Here's a more extensive photo tour of the staircase on the site Northeast Architecture, which includes more of the history behind the steps.

From a 1894 NYT article about work on the capitol:

The greatest architectural work on this continent has just been completed in Albany -- in the construction of the western staircase of the new Capitol. Architects who have seen it declare that for originality of design, for beauty, and for accuracy of finish its equal does not exist even in the old country.

The staircase includes the busts and faces of a bunch of historical figures -- a list that was not without some controversy. From a 1898 NYT article:

In carving heads on the great Western staircase in the Capitol, the features of half a dozen men who were prominent only in the local affairs of Albany were made. This has caused considerable ill-feeling, even among Albanian, and it is a question of but a short time, when the faces in stone will be "worked over" from those of obscure persons into those of historical nes.

(Thanks, James G and Dan!)

photo via Shorpy

Comments

Love this article! I find the whole Empire State Plaza area historically fascinating. You should dig something up on the egg/corning tower. I've read in the past about how the buildings and formation of the Empire State Plaza are highly reminiscent of fascist architecture. Interesting, no?

Very very nice old photo.

Here is another one from Carl's Old Photos on Flickr, a newer one by JaxPhotography, and a few others by searching for "capitol staircase" in the Flickr Albany, NY group.

Just in case you're keeping track, my stairs cost $1260 and took me 2 hours to install.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

Recently on All Over Albany

Bike-hike trail survey

The Capital District Transportation Committee is in the process of updating its survey of bike/hike trails in the region, such as the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail... (more)

Basilica Soundscape 2016 lineup

Catching up: Basilica Soundscape returns to Basilica Hudson September 16-18. And the full lineup is out -- headliners include Explosions in the Sky, Wolves in... (more)

Morning Blend

Siena poll: Voters have low confidence in ethics legislation A new Siena College Poll shows 56 percent of voters do not believe that ethics reforms... (more)

A cookbook for designing Albany streets

The city of Albany's ongoing process to plan for a more walkable and bike-friendly future took another step forward this week with the public presentation... (more)

Walking in Hamilton's footsteps

Albany is presenting with many of the symptoms of Hamilton fever. A themed tour of a historic home. A themed exhibit at a museum. And... (more)

Recent Comments

The best piece of advice I give friends who admire how much stuff I don't have is: if you don't use it, lose it!

Morning Blend for Jun 30

...has 1 comment, most recently from Kate

Design help for organizing a house?

...has 6 comments, most recently from Melissa

Downtown Troy car share

...has 1 comment, most recently from Robyn

What's up in the Neighborhood

...has 1 comment, most recently from Jamie

Pulled pork plate at Middleburgers BBQ

...has 9 comments, most recently from SchoLocal