Black and white image of a New York State Capitol Building design

The Tower That Never Was

The Tower That Never Was 


New York State Capitol
Second Floor
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7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.


The New York State Capitol is one of the few capitol buildings in the United States without an eye-catching tower or dome, but that was not the original intention. Throughout the building’s 32 years of construction (1867-1899), three different architects worked on the design — Thomas Fuller, Leopold Eidlitz, and Isaac Perry — with each one proposing a different design of a dome and/or tower.

Original Capitol architect Thomas Fuller proposed a tower that would reach 320 feet in height and have a spiral staircase leading to an observatory platform. After Fuller failed to complete his construction timeline, Leopold Eidlitz took over the design and proposed a shorter structure—a dome in a Romanesque style but heeding the engineers' warning about a potential lack of structural integrity in the northeast quadrant, the Capitol Commissioners determined it was too risky to move forward with a granite tower or dome.

Architect Isaac Perry proposed a lighter tower made from a steel framework enveloped in copper sheeting and adorned with cast bronze ornaments. Ultimately, even though the foundation for a tower had been built in the mid-1890s, the Capitol Commission scrapped all tower proposals indefinitely in 1896 due to budgetary and engineering concerns.

Decades went by without discussion of a dome or tower until rising, patriotic sentiments at the end of World War I. During New York State Governor Alfred E. Smith’s term, a plan was conceived to create a Flag Room on the first floor of the Capitol. Forty feet above the two-storied rotunda, paintings depicting New York State’s military past would be displayed. In 1920, William de Leftwich Dodge, a well-known illustrator, and muralist from New York City, was commissioned to paint the murals.

Although the second floor was never removed, the murals were installed on the slightly flattened, domed second-floor ceiling in 1929. The military history portrayed in the murals led to the room’s unofficial nickname, “The War Room.” In the mid-1990s, the room was rehabilitated and dedicated as the Governor’s Reception Room, which it is officially called to this day.


Traverse the Timeline of the New York State Capitol's Proposed Tower in Photos

New York State Capitol Design by Thomas Fuller and Arthur D. Gillman

Thomas Fuller and Chilion Laver design, Harper’s Weekly, October 9, 1869


Richardson Eidlitz Capitol Design

Proposed changes to Capitol by Leopold Eidlitz, Henry Hobson Richardson, and Frederick Law Olmsted, American Architect and Building News, March 11, 1876

Black and white cross-section of New York State Capitol

Section through the proposed dome showing spiral stairway to a lookout platform, American Architect and Building News, March 11, 1876





Architectural Drawing of the final tower design by Capitol Architect Isaac Perry, March 13, 1889

Architectural Drawing of the final tower design by Capitol Architect Isaac Perry, March 13, 1889. Image courtesy of OGS Design and Construction


Isaac Perry design revision New York State Capitol, 1889

Isaac Perry’s design revisions for the NYS Capitol with tower, from The Capitol, Albany, NY Viewbook, circa 1889



Black and White Architectural Rendering New York State Capitol 1920

Architectural Rendering of a two-story rotunda within the tower space, circa 1920