The massive volume
was marked by a groined vaulted sandstone ceiling that rose to a height
of 56 feet above the floor. At the time of its construction, the chamber's
ceiling was the widest vaulted structure attempted to that time.
The single largest room in the Capitol building is the vast
Assembly Chamber. Designed by American architect Leopold Eidlitz, it was the
first of the building's "grand spaces" to be completed and occupied.
The original Assembly chamber was designed in a Moorish Gothic style
and characterized by the period's architectural critic, Henry Van Brunt,
as "the most monumental interior in the country".
The sandstone was ornamented with bands painted in tones of greenish-blue,
red and black, and highlighted with gold. Supporting the spectacular
groined arches were four pillars of polished granite.
On the north and south walls, large windows of both clear and stained glass
provided natural light. Even the chamber's furniture was specially designed
for the room. Made of solid mahogany and red leather, it provided the perfect
accent for a noble setting. Unfortunately, almost from the start the arched
chamber ceiling experienced structural problems. As the foundation in the
Capitol began to settle the stone ceiling began to crack and break.
Soon, members were greeted each morning with desks covered in dust and
pieces of stone. Finally, when a large rock, the size of a bowling ball,
fell dangerously close to an assemblyman, it was decided that something
must be done.
That something was a new ceiling, which replaced the original vaulted ceiling
at a height four feet below the ceiling's beautiful murals. Today's Assembly chamber,
while still an impressive room, only slightly resembles the magnificent wonder that
was first opened in 1879.
Click here to learn more about the ongoing
renovations to the Assembly Chamber
above(right) - 19th century view of Assembly Chamber
with the original groined ceiling.
At the very front of the Assembly chamber is the dais or rostrum where Assembly
Speaker Sheldon Silver presides (click here for more information about Speaker
Sheldon Silver). Alongside Speaker Silver sits an aide and the Assembly Chaplain.
The bottom tier is for Assembly staff, who monitor floor action and attendance.
Today members can tally their votes electronically. Mounted on the walls of the
chamber is a state-of-the-art electronic voting tote board. With each of the 150
members connected into the system, members can quickly and effectively cast their
vote on a bill within seconds, thus alleviating the past problems of missed votes
or wrong votes being cast. There are approximately 2000 bills and resolutions
voted on annually in this chamber.