Albany, NY

Population: 97,856 [2010 census]
Year Designated as State Capital: 1797
Year Current Capitol Building Built: 1867-1899
Date Visited for Project: September 3, 2010

We stopped in Albany briefly on the way from Boston to Ithaca, so my opinions of the city itself are pretty minimal.  It did seem like a bigger city than it actually is, possibly because it actually has a fairly robust metro area (more than 850,000 estimated in 2009) while simply not holding a ton of people in the city proper.

Albany's capitol building took 32 years to build, and it looks like it.  It's an immense Victorian edifice with massive, ornate staircases and a labyrinthine layout with no obvious unifying principle, right down to its lack of a dome or rotunda.  Despite this, and despite the fact that it seems more like a museum or the castle of some transportation magnate than a state capitol, it's one of the most amazing capitols out there.  Actually, it may be because of those reasons, rather than despite them.

In addition to the capitol building, Albany also has the massive Empire State Plaza across the street, a cluster of government buildings so massive that they cost almost two billion dollars.  The scope is incredible; it feels like a national capital, the Brasilia to New York City's Rio de Janeiro and/or São Paulo.  Although technically this project is only about capitol buildings, I included some shots of the Empire State Plaza below because I found it so compelling.

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Dome picture #13, Albany, NY.  I use the word dome pretty loosely in this case, of course.

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The west side of the capitol building.  Though it wasn't completed until 1899, the legislature must have started meeting here well before that as the old capitol was demolished in 1883.

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Senate chamber, which we couldn't go into.

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House chamber, which we could.  A large, impressive room.

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One section of the so-called "Million Dollar Staircase," which I'm sure is aptly named.  There is just an intense level of carving on the staircase, including dozens of miniature busts of important historical figures.

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The Million Dollar Staircase, also known as the Great Western Staircase, from another angle.

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The Senate reception area, a great space that made up for the fact that we couldn't go into the chamber.

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The capitol has two other serious staircases, one each next to the Senate and House (or Assembly) chambers.  Here's part of the Senate staircase featuring a great rose window.

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The four massive Agency Buildings, part of Empire State Plaza just south of the capitol.

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The full Empire State Plaza, with the Agency Buildings to the right, Erastus Corning Tower (and the Egg, a performing arts center) to the left, and the Cultural Education Center in the middle.

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The Cultural Education Center contains the state museum, library and archives, though we weren't in town long enough to peruse any of them.

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A look back at the capitol with its image in the reflecting pool.

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