November 27, 2009

Beautiful Albany.

My favorite building in Albany is City Hall, also pictured in the previous post:


In front is a statue of Philip Schuyler, a Revolutionary War general, born in Albany:


Also lovely is the building that houses the New York Court of Appeals (the highest court in the state of New York). The Court of Appeals Hall has a fabulous rotunda:


The mural inside the dome is called "Romance of the Skies." It was painted by Eugene F. Savage:


A very new age vibe. With painted sparkles that remind me of a 5-year-old girl's princess fantasy. Visionary, painted in 1959. What it has to do with law, I'm not too sure. Is law some sort of astrology? But what else to paint in a dome in a government building? You can't depict a God anyone believes in, so why not some Greek/Roman gods?

Near the Court of Appeals Hall, is St. Mary's Church:


Nearby, is Academy Park, which has a cool sculpture of Lewis A. Swyer, who seems to want company:


In the background, you can see the New York State Capitol. All I want to say about that building in this post is that I love the magnificent equestrian statue of the Civil War general Philip Henry Sheridan that guards one side of the Capitol:


I won't go on to the New York State Capitol in this post. An overdone horror, it is only beautiful relative to the unbelievable atrocity that is the Empire State Plaza. It will take separate posts to attend to these complicated architectural matters. This post is called "Beautiful Albany," and I will end it here.


Pastafarian said...

I appreciate great architecture on a monumental scale, but whenever I see this in public buildings (which is about the only place you see it), it makes me wince thinking about the waste, inefficiency, and self-aggrandizement of government.

I'm reminded of my trip to Toledo to apply for an SBA loan -- the office building used by the bureaucrats involved was more like a palace than an office building. I had to make a presentation to beg for a loan for a piece of capital equipment that was worth less than the furniture in that office.

And I'd helped pay for that furniture, and for the salaries of those looking down on me from on high.

But I hate to be a humorless scold. Nice photos.

Scott said...

I haven't been through Albany in years. But I do recall that the NY State Education Building is this gigantic federalist pound cake of a building that takes up the entire block and comes right up to the sidewalks. The scale is just so wrong. It's a frightening building

EDH said...

Appropriately enough, in front of the Massachusetts state capitol, which houses the legislature and the executive, there is a statue of the Civil War General Joseph Hooker, labeled just "Hooker".

There is, however, some historical dispute about the connection between the General's last name, his lifestyle, military command, and the etymology of the slang used to describe meretricious nature of the two of the world's oldest professions, politician and whore.

There is a popular legend that the slang term for prostitutes is derived from his last name because of parties and a lack of military discipline at his headquarters. Some versions of the legend claim that the band of prostitutes that followed his division were derisively referred to as "General Hooker's Army" or "Hooker's Brigade." However, the term "hooker" was used in print as early as 1845, years before Hooker was a public figure. The prevalence of the Hooker legend may have been at least partly responsible for the popularity of the term.

There is an equestrian statue of General Hooker outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston, and Hooker County in Nebraska is named for him.

chuckR said...

People used to refer to the state building complex as the Pyramids of Rockefeller.
The I-90 by-pass is as close to Albany as I get these days, back and forth from visiting family.

Bissage said...

General Sheridan rides a mighty horse.

General Schuyler stands strong and tall.

Businessman and arts center chairman Swyer gets a park bench.

Someday, I hope to have a memorial dog bowl at the base of a water fountain.

lucid said...


yes, scold on about this. when they do the people's will as representatives in some counterbalanced Madisonian way, then the grandeur is for the republic and the people. But when they act like rulers who personally self-aggrandize by the exercise of power in taxing, spending, and passing laws which add to their own power (but from which they are exempt, as in the case of health care--and for Charlie Rangel, Tom Daschle, and Geithner, in the case of taxes), then the buidlings are indeed palaces.

edutcher said...

I'm surprised Little Phil is still standing. He is credited with the line, "The only good Indian is a dead one". It's not exactly what he said, but the sentiment was honed down into the now-familiar line.

For those interested, he was originally assigned to the Corps of Engineers when he graduated West Point and his detachment was the one to discover the Gunnison Massacre, one of the first expeditions to survey possible transcontinental railroad routes. He was so horrified by the mutilation of the bodies, he became a lifelong Indian hater.

Sorry for rattling on, but, as I say, in these PC times, I'm surprised his statue survives.

Since Ann loves the pose of him on the horse, I will tell her Phil is probably sitting on Rienzi, his favorite.

Gorgeous photos yet again, Ann. I wish I were a tenth as good.

WV "unured" When one stops being inured.

TigerHawk said...

Ah, the New York State Capitol. If the description "teeming hive of scum and villainy" is ever apt, it is in this case.

Kirby Olson said...

There are free tours of the Capitol Building at about 1 pm every day. You can go in on the right hand side (right hand as you face the front of the building).

The building is a bit overdone, but you get these wonderful carvings inside, including hilarious carvings of tiny devils smoking cigarettes while signing bills.

Another real neat thing to visit is the New York State History Museum. Just next to it is a kind of memorial to the Korean War.

In the New York State history museum (free!) you can see a lot of smashed fire engines and such from 9/11, as well as Sesame Street sets, and lots of aquatic and forest life going back to Mastadonts (somehow different from Mastadons!). They have chunks fo bridges from NYC, and lots and lots of exhibits about historical NYC that might be fun for you to see.

The bookshop has some cheap interesting pamphlets.

There are a few other interesting museums within walking distance.

It's also fun to walk down by the river which is currently being dredged (the top three feet is covered with PCBs from being downstream from General Electric and other factories and they're trying to get it to be eco-friendly again) -- lots of reference to Henry Hudson if you look carefully.

Right on the river is the SUNY central building, based on a big Dutch building that once stood in Rotterdam but was knocked down in WWII by Nazi bombers who punished Holland for not caving into them immediately and wiped out their most lovely city in order to teach other European citizens a lesson. On top of the building and serving as a weathervane is a seven-foot wide sculpture of his ship.

What else? There are some good sandwich shops down toward the river where a lot of government work gets done. Can't remember the name of the places, and they probably aren't much compared to what you have in Madison.

I'm about an hour and a half south of Albany so we visit a lot to go to the big mall at Crossgates (probably not worth visiting this weekend unless you relish massive crowds on black Friday, but there are probably a hundred stores, including a giant Borders).

Have fun!!!

The Crack Emcee said...

"A very new age vibe. With painted sparkles that remind me of a 5-year-old girl's princess fantasy. Visionary, painted in 1959. What it has to do with law, I'm not too sure. Is law some sort of astrology?"

Probably the most perfect thing I've ever read of yours that mentioned NewAge. Now, replace "law" with "science" or "medicine" or "politics" or "climate" and you're really going places,...

Michael McNeil said...

It is a lovely building and a terrific mural, but in response to your comment:

Is law some sort of astrology? But what else to paint in a dome in a government building? You can't depict a God anyone believes in, so why not some Greek/Roman gods?

What else to paint in a dome in a government building? I don't know what would be appropriate for New York, but the U.S. Capitol dome presents Constantino Brumidi's stunning masterpiece “The Apotheosis of Washington.”

Here's a direct view of that brilliant fresco, along with two details.

George Washington — general principally responsible for his country's independence, chairman of its constitutional convention, and first President of the United States — sits enthroned above a rainbow. With a gesture at the Constitution/Law, flanked by the goddesses of Liberty (holding the traditional Roman fasces of authority) and Victory/Fame (cradling the palm of victory whilst flourishing the clarion of fame) — haloed round by a constellation of thirteen Starry maidens hoisting a banner proclaiming E Pluribus Unum — the apotheosized Washington regards us from on high as the Lord of Hosts.

Perhaps by 1959 that sort of what one might call Roman enthusiasm was considered a bit risque. I think it's superb.

wv: joyanter, antarky

From Inwood said...

Beautiful buildings, but for a Liberal State, don't they realize that these buildings cost a lot to heat & produce Big Carbon Footprints or something to really worry about?

Seriously, there are some beautiful buildings, including some great Richardson Romanesque ones in Albany. (Funny comment by FLS on H.H. Holmes vs H.H. Richardson & buildings.) Haven't been there in many years. Rather dreary in the dead of Winter. Coldest place I've ever been in the Winter was the Empire State Plaza one gray, blustery January day, tho I'm sure Madison Wisc can be worse.

PS As I’m sure you remember, the Empire State Plaza was described as a manifestation of Rocky’s “Edifice Complex”. Horror on The Hudson.

PPS As you, of course, know, the Swastika is an old symbol, pre dating the Nazis. Or are we just seeing another example of Godwin’s Law?☺

PPPS While Grant & Sherman have Great monuments in NYC, poor Phil is relegated to a small statue in Greenwich Village (of all anti-war places), on (or off) his eponymous square.

ricpic said...

Pete Hamill, writing about Dublin said that he could never respond to the beauty of the place because the misery of its history kept getting in the way. That's the way I feel about Albany. Too much stench of corruption to get past, especially if you're a New Yorker.

edutcher said...

From Inwood said...


PPPS While Grant & Sherman have Great monuments in NYC, poor Phil is relegated to a small statue in Greenwich Village (of all anti-war places), on (or off) his eponymous square.

It's ironic Sheridan is remembered for the Civil War. He wasn't a major player until 1864.

His greatest impact was as commander of the Military Division of the Missouri, comprising almost all the western states (Nevada, Arizona and the Pacific Coast were the exceptions) from ca.1868 - ca.1883. He directed the campaigns of the Indian Wars with Sherman as his superior in the Chief of Staff post.

WV "blinge" When a woman spends way too much on jewelry.

blake said...

That picture of you on the bench with the statue needs some soft music and narration:

"Is a statue you love no longer able to take care of itself? Come to Althouse Hospice Care for Monuments."

Ann Althouse said...

Speaking of George Washington, he is the one who gave New York the nickname "The Empire State."

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Regarding Empire State Plaza, I refer you to a great essay on the topis: Do Sties Make Pigs? by Theodore Dalrymple.

A taste:

Until quite recently, I had assumed that the extreme ugliness of the city in which I live was attributable to the Luftwaffe. I imagined that the cheap and charmless high rise buildings which so disfigure the city-scape had been erected of necessity in great gaping holes left by Heinkel bombers. I had spent much of my childhood playing in deserted bomb shelters in public parks: and although I was born some years after the end of the war, that great conflagration still exerted a powerful hold on the imagination of British children of my generation.

I discovered how wrong I was not long ago when I entered a store whose walls were decorated with large photographs of the city as it had been before the war. It was then a fine place, in a grandiloquent, Victorian kind of way. Every building had spoken of a bulging, no doubt slightly pompous and ridiculous, municipal pride. Industry and Labor were glorified in statuary, and a leavening of Greek temples and Italian Renaissance palaces lightened the prevailing mock-Venetian Gothic architecture.

"A great shame about the war," I said to the store assistant, who was of an age to remember the old days. "Look at the city now."

"The war?" she said. "The war had nothing to do with it. It was the council. "

The City Council—the people's elected representatives it transpired, had done far more damage to the fabric of the city in the 1950s and 1960s than had Goering's air force. Indeed, they had managed to turn it into a terrible visual ordeal for anyone with the most minimal visual sensibility.

Michael McNeil said...

The middle of the month that begins in a few days (12-14) is the 210th anniversary of George Washington's death in 1799.

blake said...

I believe his doctor, Benjamin Rush figured the cure for his cold was blood-letting?

The cure worked, but the patient died.

Michael Hasenstab said...

Lewis A. Swyer? that looks like a bronze of James Taylor, sitting on a bench. Middle age-hippy singer, waiting on his dealer.

wv medupt Ol' James needs to get medupt.

Michael McNeil said...

Medicine unfortunately was largely quackery at the turn of the 19th century. It wasn't until later in that century that doctors realized their general ineptitude and started cleaning up their act — finally comprehending around the mid 1800s that the principal cause of (at least a huge number of) diseases wasn't things like “bad air” (= mala aria = malaria), as had been supposed for centuries (Benjamin Franklin had a lot to say concerning his objections to that theory, which locked folks up at night in tightly shuttered stuffy houses in fear for their lives). Physicians and scientists finally realized that (at least epidemic) diseases in general are caused by microscopic living creatures (“germs”) invading and living within us, where they eat us from within.

For all the overarching theories of ancient and medieval medicine, nothing like that was ever anticipated before. Interesting to speculate how history might be different now had some ancient medical genius figured out germs 2,000 years early.

Steelweaver52 said...

My first thought when I saw city hall was "Henry Hobson Richardson". I see one other commenter identified him also.

From Inwood said...


Sheridan cleaned up the Shenandoah Valley, which no one else had been able to do.

That hoary cliché, "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln...." seems appropriate here.

rocketeer67 said...

I won't go on to the New York State Capitol in this post. An overdone horror, it is only beautiful relative to the unbelievable atrocity that is the Empire State Plaza.

Philistine! The capitol building is beautiful, one of the finest examples of the sublimnity that is Richardsonian Romanesque architecture.

And you, an aesthete!