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Interpreting the Evidence

Assembly Chamber, New York State Capitol, c. 1900

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Capital District
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Assembly Chamber, New York State Capitol, c. 1900 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
The Assembly Chamber at the New York State Capitol, circa 1900.
Historical Context
Although construction of the New York Capitol Building would continue for another twenty years, the State Assembly met in the new Assembly Chamber in 1879. Designed by Leopold Eidlitz, it was the first major room to be used in the Capitol. The Assembly Chamber is the largest room in the Capitol and originally featured a vaulted ceiling fifty-six feet high. Within just a couple of years, however, the ceiling began to crack, leaving dust and pieces of rock on the desks and floor of the room. Although the architect tried to repair the beautiful ceiling, it could not be saved.  A commission examining the ceiling found it so dangerous that it recommended the room be evacuated immediately.  A new, wooden ceiling was constructed in 1888. Unfortunately, the new ceiling was significantly lower than the original and hid two beautiful murals by artist William Morris Hunt on the walls above.
Essential Question
How does architecture reflect a society's values and culture?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and determine the influence of culture on the design.
Historical Challenges
Who is the New York State Assembly Speaker? Find five facts about this person.
Name a New York State Assemblymember who later became President of the United States.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: How many yards high was the Assembly Chamber's original ceiling? How many inches?
Science: How do arches and columns support a building?
English Language Arts: Write a letter to the Assembly Speaker on a teacher-approved topic of your choice.
Art: Following instructions on page 73-74 of the Capitol Tour Program Resource Kit, have students design a classroom.