It is the "People’s Chamber," the home of the New York State Assembly and a historical and architectural treasure. Designed in a Moorish-Gothic style – a trademark of its renowned American architect, Leopold Eidlitz, it was dedicated on January 1, 1879 to national acclaim. It is the largest room in the New York State Capitol, the first of the distinctive building’s “Grand Spaces.”
Now, as we approach the end of the 20th century, much of the matchless beauty and dignified grandeur of the original Assembly Chamber is in danger of being lost forever. To halt the ravaging effects of aging and deterioration and to preserve the splendid realization of the Eidlitz vision, a restoration project is now taking place in the Chamber and nearby areas of the Capitol.
The Eidlitz concept for the Chamber was an intricate and subtle, yet spectacular blend of color and material. A vibrant red carpet defined a rich, warm atmosphere that captured, reflected and accentuated the textures and colors of the solid mahogany and leather appointments adorning the Chamber furniture and rostrum. Exquisite stonework, embellished by the bands of greenish-blue, red, black and gold paint, offered a visual counterpoint to the Chamber’s sandstone walls, while four large pillars of polished granite rose as stately sentinels to support the vaulted ceiling.
An abundance of natural light streamed through large windows of both clear and stained glass on the north and south walls.
The mastery and beauty of the original Chamber was characterized by the period’s foremost architectural critic, Henry Van Brunt, as “the most monumental interior in the country.”
Yet as magnificent as Eidlitz’s achievement was, the effects of time, nature and constant use left their mark. A green carpet replaced the striking red, paint peeled and decades of grime from the smoke of gaslights and cigars accumulated, dimming the room’s bright facades and distorting its visual character. Marred and worn, the Chamber became a victim of age and expediency, its architectural integrity threatened. In recent years, failure to meet access and safety standards heightened the need for renovations.
As we enter the new millennium, the Assembly is moving to meet the challenges of repairing, restoring and preserving the Chamber. This work is taking place with long-overdue improvements to address access for persons with disabilities and safety concerns. The cost-effective renovations and maintenance are necessary to prevent the ravages of time from further damaging this great room. When completed, the Chamber will be safer, rejuvenated and accessible to everyone.