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Great Western Staircase, View from Fourth Floor, New York State Capitol, c. 1900

N.Y. Albany. State Capitol. Western Staircase from Fourth Floor. (Before 1911)
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_D47_AlS24
 
Document Description
Fourth floor of the Great Western Staircase in the New York State Capitol. 
 
Questions
Is the construction of the Great Western Staircase simple or elaborate?  How can you tell?
Why do you think so many stone cutters were needed to work on the staircase?
What images are carved along the staircases?
Why would George Clinton’s face have been the first to be carved into the staircase?
 
Historical Challenges
In 2002, the skylight in this photograph was uncovered. When, why, and how had it been covered?
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: How many steps are not shown in this photo?
Science: Research which materials were used in building the Great Western Staircase. Why were some materials chosen over others?
English Language Arts: Write a research paper on the Great Western Staircase.
 
Resources
Kennedy, William. The Capitol in Albany. New York: Aperture, 1986. ISBN: 0893812099
Roseberry, Cecil R. Capitol Story. Albany: New York State Office of General Services, 1982.
Thrane, Susan W., and Tom Patterson. State Houses: America's 50 State Capitol Buildings. Erin, Ontario: Boston Mills Press, 2005. ISBN: 1550464574
 

Historical Context
The Great Western Staircase at the New York State Capitol is popularly known as the Million Dollar Staircase.  This famous staircase actually cost closer to $1.5 million and took years to complete.  It is the biggest and most ornate of the three staircases inside the Capitol.  With 444 steps, it spans four stories and is 119 feet high.  The sandstone used for the staircase was imported from Scotland and carved by six hundred stone carvers. The elaborate carvings include seventy-seven portraits of important people, as well as 1,000 smaller faces. The first face carved into the staircase was that of New York's first governor, George Clinton.  Other famous Americans also appear along the staircase, including Christopher Columbus, Henry Hudson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ulysses S. Grant, Clara Barton, and Susan B. Anthony.  Excerpts from the Declaration of Independence can also be seen along the staircase. 
 
Essential Question
How is architecture influenced by a society's values and culture?
 
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and determine the influence of culture on the design.