New York's Capital Region in 50 Objects

New York's Capital Region in 50 Objects


Each region of the nation has its own distinctive history and identity. The New York’s Capital Region—consisting of Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Saratoga Counties—is no different. But what best identifies the region? What events, objects, people, and ideas have contributed to its character and uniqueness?

To learn the answers, we presented these questions to the numerous museums, historical organizations, libraries, and residents of the Capital Region. The fifty objects that were ultimately selected present an exciting history of the Capital Region, including well-known favorites but also unexpected surprises. Some of the fifty objects characterize very broad topics like the textile industry and the Hudson River School of art, while others embody large populations of people who shaped the character of the region, such as the Dutch and the Iroquois. Many objects represent specific people or events, such as writer William Kennedy and the Battle of Saratoga. In some instances, the objects represent themselves, like the GE Monitor Top refrigerator and Albany’s beloved Nipper statue. A complementary image accompanies each of the fifty objects, providing context and additional information.

Overall, the fifty objects clearly demonstrate that this narrowly circumscribed part of New York State has played an astonishing role in shaping the history of the nation and, in several instances, the world beyond the confines of our national borders.

Empire State Plaza

The Empire State Plaza was the vision and legacy of New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller. The idea for the government complex purportedly arose from the visit of Princess Beatrix of Holland in 1959 and Rockefeller’s embarrassment of the decaying streets around the capitol.

Wallace K. Harrison, who worked with the Rockefeller family on earlier projects, was selected as the architect. (In the 1930s he served as a junior partner on Rockefeller Center in New York City.) Harrison designed large architectural complexes that often centered on water, and the Empire State Plaza became his last monumental undertaking.

Construction began in 1962 and lasted until 1978, changing the face of Albany and displacing an entire neighborhood. George A. Fuller Company and a multitude of subcontractors accomplished the engineering and construction of four cantilevered agency buildings, the Erastus Corning Tower, the Justice Building, the Legislative Office Building, the Motor Vehicles Building, the Egg, and the Cultural Education Center as well as the Plaza and underground concourse.

Marcel F. Mutin worked as chief designer for Harrison. Born in France in 1910 and educated at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, Mutin came to the U.S. in the late 1940s. He opened his own firm in New York in the mid-1950s and became one of the top architectural renderers in the nation. His renderings for the Empire State Plaza show some of the original concepts for the project. Some were realized while others were not, like the triumphal arch at the south end of the Plaza occupied today by the Cultural Education Center.

Architectural Rendering, Proposed View of South Mall Looking Northeast

Marcel Mutin (1910-1998) | c. 1962

Medium: Tempera on board

Dimensions: 28 1/2 H x 40 W

Credit: Albany Institute of History & Art Purchase

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