Monday, December 26, 2011

The Governor's Message, 1867.

January 8, 1867, The World: New York, Page 4, Column 5, THE NEW STATE CAPITOL

Governor FENTON'S message devotes ten lines of nothings to the subject of the erection of the new Capitol at Albany. As ten million dollars are to be used in the construction, it might be expected that the finest building of the kind in the country, and one fit for the seat of government of such a State as NEW-YORK, would be the result. The Capitol at Nashville, confessedly the most pretentious outside of Washington, cost but two millions; yet such a course has been pursued as to bar the competition of all architects whose designs are worthy consideration.

The Commission to whom was entrusted the construction advertised last year for specifications, the highest price attached to which was only three thousand dollars, and no assurance was given that he whose design was accepted should be appointed the architect of the building. In this miserly attire the embryo capitol has gone a-begging among the principal architects of the country. They refuse to consider such an impecunious proposition.

The American Institute for architects, among whom are included some of the best in the country, and to whose members are attributable such structures as our recent Academy of Music, that in Philadelphia, Mr. STEWART'S residence, the buildings at Jerome Park, and all constructions whose reputation is national, have unanimously issued a circular to the effect that the terms offered by the Capitol Commission are such as no capable designer can afford to entertain. They state to Hon. HAMILTON HARRIS, the Chairman of the Commission:
According to the established custom of business in our time, a building worth three millions of dollars pays to the architect employed to design it at least a commission of three per cent., one third of which would be due when the design and specifications, upon which the cost can be estimated, are fully prepared. This would probably amount, in the case before us, to a sum of thirty thousand dollars.
As a result of this short-sighted policy, we understand that the Commission has received no plans commensurate with the purposes of the new Capitol, but are inundated with ambitious specifications from inferior architects. The enterprise of securing fit designs seems to have died before it was born, from the miserable penuriousness we have indicated.

If the Legislature has time to spare from the congenial and compatible duties of governing New-York City, reconstructing the South, and repealing the neutrality laws, it would be well could they shake some common sense into the Capitol Commission, and arouse them to the fact that the new building will require more breadth and expenditure in design than the construction of a candy store or the erection of a Freedmen's schoolhouse.

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