Virtual Visit: Hauntings - Legends of the Capitol Halls

Explore the history behind the legends and lore of the New York State Capitol.
Virtual Visit: Hauntings - Legends of the Capitol Halls

Virtual Visit: Part 3 Hauntings: Legends

Explore the history behind the legends and lore of the New York State Capitol.

Fast Facts


  1. Abraham Lincoln and Henry Clay were the two most famous people to be laid in state at the old State Capitol. Lincoln was born in Kentucky, and Clay represented Kentucky in Congress for many years. They both died in Washington, D.C.
  2. The architect of the current State Capitol, Thomas Fuller, was a Canadian from Ontario. Strangely enough, the architect of the Ontario Legislative Building was Richard Waite, a New Yorker.
  3. John Wilkes Booth came to Albany to perform in a play called The Apostate. In it, he played the part of a villainous dictator who is assassinated in the final act.
  4. The memoirs of President Grant, which he completed only days before his death and lying in state in the Capitol lobby, earned approximately $450,000 for his widow, Julia. This would be the equivalent of $13 million in today's money.
  5. One of William Morris Hunt’s brothers was Richard Morris Hunt, once president of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. During the construction of the new Capitol, Richard penned a letter that was so critical of Thomas Fuller’s architecture that it suggested tearing it down completely and starting over.
  6. A nine-foot-tall statue of a woman representing Justice stood at the top of the old State Capitol. The plan was to relocate the statue into the lobby of the new State Capitol, but it mysteriously fell to the ground and smashed only a few days before the building was demolished.


Who designed the original New York State Capitol?
Philip Hooker designed the original Capitol building in the federal style of architecture. The Capitol building opened in 1809 and was torn down in 1883 during the construction of our current Capitol building.

What was the purpose of Lincoln’s visit to the Old State Capitol?
In 1861, as President-elect Abraham Lincoln was traveling to Washington, DC, to assume the presidency, he stopped in Albany to speak in the Assembly Chamber.

Who else was in Albany the same day of Lincoln’s visit?
John Wilkes Booth was also in Albany performing in a play during Lincoln’s visit.

What Albany couple has a connection to Lincoln?
Clara Harris, daughter of Senator Ira Harris from Troy, and her fiancé Colonel Henry Rathbone, son of an Albany mayor, attended the theater with Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln on the fateful night of April 14, 1865.

What does “Lay in State” mean?
It is a tradition in which the body of a deceased individual is placed in a state or federal building for the public to pay their respects. Lying in state is a formal honor given to Presidents, Presidents-Elect, Vice Presidents, members of Congress, or any persons designated by the President.

How many United States Presidents have laid in state in the current New York State Capitol?
President Ulysses S. Grant was the first and currently only US President to lay in state in the current New York State Capitol.

Who laid in state at the old State Capitol?
President Abraham Lincoln laid in state at the old State Capitol and well-known U.S. Senator Henry Clay.

Where did Ulysses S. Grant die?
People can visit the Ulysses S. Grant’s cottage in Wilton, New York, just fifty miles north of Albany. He died there on July 23, 1885, after battling throat cancer.

What was mysterious about the death of muralist William Morris Hunt?
Hunt’s body was found on Appledore Island in New Hampshire on September 8, 1879. Though the official cause of death was listed as an accidental drowning in a small pond, early unofficial reports indicated that he had taken his own life.