This impressive building, seat of New York State government since the 1880s and a jarring contrast with the starkly modern Empire Plaza and agency buildings that rise around it, was the first massive and problematic project in the area. It took more than 3 decades (beginning at the end of the 19th c.) and five architects to build, and cost more than $25 million (making it relatively one of the most expensive buildings ever erected in the U.S). One of the last load-bearing structures to be built, with no steel reinforcements until the top floor, and constructed of solid granite masonry, it was to have been crowned by a cupola, but the governor at the time, Theodore Roosevelt, had had enough and proclaimed it finished in 1899. Its grandest features are the Great Western Staircase -- the so-called "$1-million staircase," a riot of elaborate stonework that contains more than 1,000 carved small faces (most are anonymous, but there are 77 "famous" visages, such as Andrew Jackson and Henry Hudson) -- and the vibrant William de Leftwich Dodge ceiling murals of battle depictions in the Governor's Reception Room. Free walk-in tours last about 45 minutes; it's wise to phone ahead to confirm the schedule.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Highly Recommended 2010