We made a spontaneous trip down to New York City.  My work had shut down for the Christmas holiday, and my wife could also get some time off.  We wanted to visit the Big Apple, and we grabbed this opportunity when it was at hand.

The Capitol as seen from the observation deck at Erastus Corning II Tower.

On our return trip, we were going to visit the New York State Museum.  We arrived early and wandered around the area until the museum opened.  We stumbled into a gift shop which doubled as an information centre.  There a lady made some recommendations. One of those recommendations was to take a tour of the State Capitol.  I was apprehensive at first.  I had a timeline to follow, and I wanted to be home in time, not to be rushed and hurried.  After all, we had to work the next day, and the laundry wasn’t going to wash itself.

The tour guide sensed my apprehension and insisted that we would enjoy it.  I made a couple of small purchases and politely declined.  We headed in the direction of the museum, and that is when I changed my mind.

Yes, we travel a lot, but it is rare for us to come to the same spot again anytime soon.  I would hate to miss the opportunity.  My mind changed; I turned myself and the wife around, headed back to the gift shop, and was given further directions on where to go.  

I was rather impressed with the ease of entering the Capitol of New York State.  A quick security check and our names were all that was required.  We only had to wait a few minutes for a guide to take us from one room to another.  She was amazing.  Proud of the history and heritage of this large, ornate building that went well over budget time and time again in its construction.  I noticed a few spots that went unfinished, and that was because not a dollar more was going to be spent on this building, the then-governor said. 

The guide slowly took us to various locations, including a rotating gallery of painted scenes in New York, a ceiling collage of military moments and even the section where the governor works.  That hallway concluded our tour, and it was a great conclusion.  The long hallway walls had a timeline of significant events in New York history and a gallery of most of the governors.  

We learned that we would have free access to much of the building, even without a tour guide.  I was so impressed with this; we are in a government building and allowed to roam unsupervised.  So few places, especially ones of this importance, let this to happen.

There were two places that I wanted to see: the library (which was easy enough to find) and the “Million Dollar Stairs!”

Don’t let the name fool you.  This elegant staircase did not cost a million dollars, even when it was built, but over a million and a half dollars and possibly more.  Somehow the name “Million and a Half and Quite Possibly More Staircase” is a mouthful to say.

This area of the building had undergone restoration.  What we see now is as close to the original design than what many have seen even until recently.  The guide told our group that this area was dirty.  Blackened by years of indoor smoking, thousands of hands touching, thousands of people in the area, pollution from the outdoors, and other factors, the soft red stones turned into a blackened mess.  It was cleaned using a sticky putty that only removed the grime and did not damage anything underneath.  What was left behind was my favourite part of the building.  It is full of detail with faces of famous, infamous and unknown faces of people.  It is a large area that is impossible to catch the grandeur of this magnificent staircase in a single photograph.

We left this state building impressed and pleased that we stayed to see it.  So impressed that we returned to the gift shop and thanked the lady who recommended this.  It was worth the change in plans.

  • Tours are offered regularly.  It is possible to walk in as we did, but it is best to make reservations.  
  • The tour is free of charge.
  • Once the tour ends, you can wander around freely, but it is easy to get disorientated.
  • A great visit for those interested in architecture and for a brief history of New York State.
  • A security check is understandable.
  • Take as many pictures as you can!
  • The Capitol is within walking distance to the free New York State Museum and to the observation deck at Erastus Corning II Tower.
  • A map of this, and many other places we have visited, can be found here.


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