Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"A Great Public Calamity."

May 17, 1877, The New York Times, Page 2, Veto of Supply Bill Items. Gov. Robinson Rejects to Appropriations in the Supply Bill Amounting to Over a Million and a Half Dollars--The New Capitol...Rejected.

This item is objected to and not approved. The new Capitol is a great public calamity. At its commencement the people of the State were assured that it would be completed for $4,000,000. There have already been expended upon it $7,723,685 16. No reliance can be placed upon any estimate which can be obtained as to the cost of completing it. There is no probability that it can be fully finished, according to the original plans, for less than from $15,000,000 to $20,000,000. If the tax-payers of the State had not been deceived; if they had supposed that the whole expenditure would reach what it has already reached, it is not likely that they would have permitted the commencement of the work. It is without a parallel for extravagance and folly. It covers more than three acres of ground. Its proportions are enormous. It is more than double the size needed for a Capitol. At every step of its progress one idea has held supreme control, which was to make its exterior a great and magnificent architectural display, which should dazzle the eyes of all beholders, without the least regard to the interior arrangements for practical use. Indeed, but for the improvements in the interior plans made by the present Commissioners, the two houses of the Legislature would scarcely have been able to occupy it at all. Even now, after they have made all the changes for the better possible in a building already spoiled, it can only be used with very great inconvenience and discomfort. The legislative chambers must be reached by ascending to a height of 62 feet from the first steps of the main front, and this extraordinary elevation must be attained either by long stairways or else by steam power and elevators, such as are used to reach the fifth or sixth stories of first-class hotels. The halls are long, damp, and dark, the rooms badly lighted and ventilated. In cloudy weather very few of the rooms can be used without gaslight during the day as well as at night. When this great and useless structure can or will be completed it is idle to conjecture. When we consider the unlimited expense of heating and lighting three acres of a building 108 feet high; of its cleaning, care, and attendance, with six or eight steam engines, and their engineers and firemen, no one can feel in any haste to have it completed. The best estimate which I have been able to obtain of the amount of these expenses makes it about $250,000 per annum. In making the appropriation the Legislature directs the Commissioners to "build and complete the exterior of the new Capitol building in the Italian Renaissance style of architecture adopted in the original design," and according to the style upon which the building was being erected prior to the adoption of the so-called "medieval [?]" There are very great differences of opinion among eminent architects as to which style should be adopted. The direction of the Legislature compelled the Commissioners to return to the former style, and I understand that the change will involve a loss of at least $300,000. The new Capitol, like all other public buildings upon which the State has recently expended such extravagant amounts of money, was the outgrowth of a vicious system of finance and of the folly and madness which accompanied it. The inevitable disasters which come of such follies are now upon us in full force, and are everywhere felt with crushing effects. They admonish us, if we proceed at all, to do all with moderation. It is surely no time to increase appropriations when the power to pay taxes is so greatly diminished, yes, on examination of the supply bill, it will be found that in this period of financial embarrassment the appropriations for all the public buildings, and consequently the taxes to believed for them, are very largely in advance of those of preceding years. It is surely time to pause in this career. All prudent business men in the management of their own affairs move more slowly, and thousands are unable to move at all under the present circumstances. However convenient or desirable it maybe to complete the Capitol and the other public buildings, we can do without them for a time, as we have heretofore. They are not absolute necessities. In any event, it seems better to wait a year, even if it be finally decided that this building must be completed, to the end that it be devised by which better accommodations may be secured, at less expense than now appears inevitable.

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