Sunday, November 06, 2011

Burned Building Twice as Costly as National Capitol at Washington,

March 29, 1911, The Evening World, Night Edition, Page 2, Column 4, Burned Building Twice as Costly as National Capitol at Washington,

Perched upon the highest of the seven hills upon which the city of Albany is built, the Capitol, a gigantic structure of white granite, with red-capped towers, stands. It is 300 feet north and south, by 400 feet east and west, and covers three acres. The first stone in the foundation was laid July 7, 1871, the corner stone was laid with great ceremony by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons. The Capitol was first occupied by the Legislature on Jan. 7, 1879, the formal occupation taking place on the twelfth of the following month.

Some writers upon architecture say that the white granite Capitol, with its towers, reminds them of the famous Tag Mahal, in India. Others think it a superb reflection of French architecture.

Has National Reputation.

The Capitol at Albany has had n national reputation as being one the most costly public buildings in the United States. Up to the beginning of the present fiscal year $24,265,082 had been expended on it, and estimates placed the cost of it at several millions more. Only one other public building in the country has cost more and that is the Philadelphia City Hall, on which more than $30,000,000 has been expended to date.

A comparison with the cost of some other notable public buildings will give an idea of the great burden the cost of its construction has been to the State. The National Capitol at Washington, which covers two and a half acres more, cost $11,723,400. The Pennsylvania State Capitol at Harrisburg cost $13,000,000. The Parliament Buildings at Ottawa, Canada, cost $5,000,000.

An Imposing Structure.

The Capitol was the most imposing building in Albany not only because of its great size, but also because of its commanding position on the highest of the hills which rise above the waters of the Hudson River. It's white granite walls and red-capped towers were visible from almost every section of the city and from all of the railroads entering the capital.

The Capitol has been under construction forty-four years. The act authorizing the erection of a building to cost not more than four million. The original architect was Thomas Fuller.

Fuller was superceded as architect in 1875 by an advisory panel consisting of Frederick Law Olmstead, Leopold Edlitz and Henry H. Richardson. The original Italian Renaissance plan was modified to the Romanesque, but the legislature demanded a return to the original plan, and its orders were obeyed.

Formally Occupied in 1879.

The formal occupation of the capital occurred on Feb. 12, 1879. At that time the Assembly chamber was already occupied. The Senate chamber was not occupied until March 10, 1881, Other parts of the building were later occupied as they were completed.

The ground floor contained a number of long corridors from which opened offices occupied by the State Treasurer, the Superintendent of Public Works, Superintendent of Public Instruction and other important State officials. Magnificent stone stairways, the beauty of which have been widely celebrated by architects, ran from the main corridor to the Senate and Assembly wings.

On the second floor were the offices of the Governor, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General and a number of other officials. The exquisite marble wainscoting on the corridors of this floor was particularly noteworthy, though the rooms occupied by the Governor and some of the members of his official family, were remarkable for their elegance.

Floor for Legislature.

On the third floor were the Senate and Assembly Chambers, the show rooms of the building. The Senate chamber was designed by H.H. Richardson of Boston, the leading architect of his time. The walls of this chamber were of Mexican onyx and tinted Sienna marble, and the effect produced by this arrangement was one of singular richness and beauty.

The Assembly chamber was designed by Leopold Eidlitz and when finished according to his plans, was a magnificent room and resembled the interior of a church. The ceiling was of sandstone supported by four splendid columns of Tennessee marble. The stone ceiling proved unstable, and it was decided to substitute quartered oak, in connection with this occurred the celebrated "ceiling scandal."

The contract for the new ceiling was awarded to John Snaith of Albany. The special commission that awarded it thought that it had provided for a quartered oak ceiling, but when the job was finished in 1889, a newspaper expose showed that it was made of papier mache. The cost had been $238,000.

Supt. Andrews Accused.

It was charged that Superintendent Andrews, who had charge of the work, had substituted the words "or of papier mache" in that clause of the specifications which had called for quartered oak. A special committee recommended the indictment of Snaith, Andrews and T. J. Sullivan, who was associated in the work, but no indictments were found.

On the third floor of the Capitol were also located the rooms occupied by the Court of Appeals and the State Library. The collection of books and historical documents in the library was extremely valuable. Estimates of its value run all the way from $1,500,000 to $3,000,000.

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