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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Albany: 1905

Albany: 1905

Albany, New York, circa 1905. "Staircase in the Capitol." A glimpse into the corridors of power. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

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Million Dollar Staircase

I've been to Albany a number of times to lobby with the UAW, and have been at this staircase so many times. Each time, its beauty just astounds me! I love to see the faces of people who have never seen it before-jaws drop open all over the place. The Million Dollar Staircase is also a popular setting for various speakers protesting or supporting various legislation. If you are in Albany, you really owe it to yourself to stop in, and take a look around. Access is easy, but there are security checkpoints to go through. These can take some time, around 8am, noon, 1pm, so you might want to visit the Capitol at off times. Also, there are neighborhoods near to the Capitol buildings, that date from the 1700's. Many have been saved from ruin. One street I had the time to walk down, had plaques fixed to each rowhouse, listing the name of the person who'd built it, the year, and what that person did for a living. Many were fur trappers.

The Million Dollar Staircase

I remember going on a class trip, maybe when I was in 5th grade, to the State Capitol. That would have been around 1959. (Fort Hunter Elementary School, in Guilderland.) I recall the beauty of this staircase, Lo! these many years later.

The "Million Dollar Staircase"

The Great Western Staircase cost over a million (1897) dollars to build and took over 14 years to complete.


What more is there to say?


If it was in Florida, they'd have filled it with water.

I'm Kicking Myself

As many times as I've been in or through Albany I never bothered to block out that awful flying-saucer thing and go visit the "boring" old buildings. "Height of workmanship" below is dead on the money. And money is what it's all about, isn't it? We now build on the cheap and call it "progress." And, what's really amazing: we the people buy it! To be fair to Albany, though, the old D&H Railroad-Canal headquarters down the hill is worth the trip.

A clean sweep in Albany

The mops are a nice touch, but not quite up to the job.


This is a marvelously complex and interesting stair! Not a square foot of the overall space is left untouched! Wonderful! Thanks. I hope there is a matching stair at the other end of the space, behind the photographer.


So that's what "ornate detail" means!

That's some incredible workmanship.

Great Western Staircase

This staircase is magnificent, and the photo captures the scale of the room well. The glass above was painted over during WWII to prevent Axis bombers from seeing the lights of the capitol from the air. It was recently restored to what you see above, and the stairway has been meticulously cleaned and brought back to its former glory.

These walls have faces

It sure seems like there's a head poking out of every corner in this photo.

The height of workmanship

This photo represents the epitome of American workmanship, craftsmanship, and pride, which I believe will never be equaled again. Today's attitude is 'you can't see it from my house'. Amazing. In more ways than one.

And, now in color...

Minus the spittoon.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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