On State Street at the northern end of the Empire State Plaza  stands the stunning State Capitol Building. Begun in 1867, the castlelike edifice required 32 years and $25 million to complete—indeed, it was never entirely finished, as the original plans called for a dome and central rotunda. A clutch of architects, including Thomas Fuller, Henry Hobson Richardson, and Frederick Law Olmsted participated in the design, which explains its riotous hodgepodge of architectural styles.
Capitol tours lead visitors past the gold-leaf walls of the Senate Chamber and the marble columns of the Assembly Chamber before culminating at the “Million Dollar Staircase.” Here 300 tiny faces carved by mostly Italian stonecutters smile, glare, or stare at passersby. Seventy-seven of the faces are of such famous men as Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman, but most are anonymous, and each is different from the next.
Free tours are offered Monday–Friday at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., and 3 p.m.; and Saturday–Sunday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Reservations are recommended; call 518/474-2418. Free self-guided audio tours are also available. Be prepared to pass security clearance and present an ID.