August 24, 1905, Albany Evening Journal, Page 1, CAPITOL CLERKS HAD A LUCKY ESCAPE MONDAY,
Portion of Ceiling in Record Room of Agricultural Department Crashed to Floor.
CAUSE OF THE COLLAPSE.
Supports Had Been Removed Some Years Ago --No Effect on Rest of Building
The fact that the ceiling in the record room of the state agricultural department at the capitol had fallen Monday afternoon of this week, and that the lives of the clerks employed there had been in jeopardy, was not generally known around the big building until this morning. Coming as it does so closely on the discovery that the Assembly staircase was not in the safest condition, the employes throughout the structure are having not a little concern about their safety.
That no one was under the heavy masonry when it fell was fortunate, and the five clerks employed there, one of whom is a woman, have good reason to be thankful. The room is on the south side of Commissioner Wieting's department, on the second floor, and faces Washington avenue, being about thirty foot square, with a handsome groined arch ceiling about 30 feet high. The portion that collapsed me assured, about three feet and was bulky information.
As soon as the crash occurred the clerks were hurried from the department and Superintendent Hill of the department of public buildings was summoned. His workmen made an investigation and as a result the room is now closed for an indefinite period. Experts say the collapse is purely a local one and has no bearing whatever on the fact that some parts of the building are believed to be decaying.
If the room had been left as it was originally constructed the collapse would not have been possible.
The peculiar formation of the ceiling made it essential to have pillars of masonry supporting it when it was erected in the early stages of the capitol construction, but about 12 or 15 years ago the four central piers were removed to make room for filing cases, which were built against the walls, with a gallery running around the upper part to make the records up there easy of access. The removal of the main supports naturally weakened the heavy ceiling, which remained intact only through its solidity.
These fact were not apparent to Commissioner Wieting or anyone else in office in recent years, as the filing cases hid all evidence that the piers had been removed. That the whole ceiling and not dropped before is miraculous as it is at present nothing more than a web gridironed by huge cracks and fissures. The gallery caught the most of the plaster and stone that fell, and this was another fortunate thing, for it gave the clerks chance to leave the room.
The room is directly under the Assembly chamber, and with the constant traffic overhead during the session it is difficult to conceive how the ceiling kept in place. It was the general opinion among those who witnessed the gaping hole to-day that if the tons of masonry had fallen together the debris would have crashed through the floor and gone through the ceiling of the first floor.
Without delay superintendent Hill got in communication with McCaffrey & Hughes, local contractors, and their men ran up a substantial temporary structure to hold the ceiling in place.
The work of taking down the ceiling began to-day. State Architect Heins made an inspection and is already at
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work on plans for a ceiling that when put in place will be safe and substantial in every respect it is probable, in view of recent developments, the next Legislature will direct a thorough overhauling of the building. During the work of repairing, another room has been placed at the disposal of Commissioner Wieting.