New York Capitol & Empire State Plaza, Albany


New York City may get all the attention, but the capitol of the Empire State is 150 miles “upstate”, along the Hudson River.  Albany, New York has a beautiful state house and architecturally intriguing public plaza.  If you only have time to make one stop, like me, this is what I suggest you see.

New York’s capitol building looks a bit different than most.  Instead of being topped with a dome, the state house is built in the Romanesque Revival and Neo-Renaissance style.  It was the most expensive government building of its time, when it was completed in 1899.  In current dollars, its construction would have cost half a billion dollars.

The New York Capitol building stands alongside State Street, which shifts slightly as it passes the capitol, so that it’s almost centered with the capitol grounds.  From the capitol’s front lawn, you can look down State Street to see the central tower of SUNY’s administration building.  (SUNY is the State University of New York.)

There’s more interesting architecture to see along the side of the capitol building on State Street — though it’s much more modern than the capitol itself (to the point that it’s almost cold, impersonal, and a little creepy).  This area is known as the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza, or less formally, the “South Mall”.

Climb the steps to enter the plaza, and at least two things will jump out at you.  One, this series of office towers, that look like something out of a cell phone commercial (“More Bars…”).  These four buildings are known as the “Agency Buildings”.

The other structure that will capture your attention is known simply as the “Egg”, for obvious reasons.  Inside the Egg is a performing arts venue, with two amphitheatres, the larger of the two holds nearly 1,000 people.

The Egg took 12 years to build, with construction beginning in 1966 and ending in 1978.  The upper “egg” portion of the building, doesn’t just sit atop the pedestal, it extends downward, six stories below ground, in order to anchor the egg to the earth.

The smooth curves of The Egg help to break up the unfriendly angles of the other boxy buildings.  The tower you see in the background is the tallest building in the complex, the Corning Tower.  It is 589 feet high (180 meters), with 44 stories, and an observation deck at the top (which is free, and open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily). It’s the tallest skyscraper in New York, outside of New York City.

There are some other sculptures scattered around the plaza, and at the end opposite the state house, is the state museum.

In the middle of the plaza, there are several pools, which probably would have been more reflective on a less-windy day.  From here, you have a nice view of the side of the capitol building.

Since my visit to Albany took place early on a Sunday morning, I didn’t have the chance to go inside any of the buildings. It’s probably for the best, because I had a lot of driving to do on Day 2 of my trip.  I wanted to see as much of Vermont’s scenic Route 100 as possible, so that meant driving east, and backtracking over some of the roads that I had traveled the night before, after dark.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive around Albany and Troy, New York, then east on Route 7 to the Vermont state line:

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