James Carr

Million Dollar Staircase 1

Someone stood here, in the air
With hammer and chisels
And a pencil,
And maybe later, an idea

Someone stood here, in the air
Looking at this soft red stone
And although confined by
Dimension and elevations
Still made this woman appear

Who was she?
Whose eyes now peer
Down at us forever
Frozen in time

Did they tell him to?
Carve her
Or was he supposed to muse
Or remember or hope

Here she is still
Decades and decades later, and yet
As young as the day when
Her hair flew away from
The red stone chips

Someone stood here, in the air
And today I am left to wonder
Who was she?
And whose hands
Brought her forth


1 Observations on the Million Dollar Staircase; NYS Capitol @ Albany

The Great Western Staircase, also known as the Million Dollar Staircase, took an unheard of 14 years to construct, from 1883-1897 and cost, more than one million dollars. The delays in constructing this magnificent staircase were two-fold. Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and built by Isaac Perry, the staircase contains 444 steps and reaches 119 feet high, is renowned as an outstanding example of American architectural stone carving excellence.

Over 500 stone cutters and carvers were employed at various times. Many were Europeans who had mastered their trade in their homelands of England, Scotland and Italy.

Their main task was the carving of various prominent people into the stone as ordered by chief architect Isaac Perry. He wanted 77 in all. What’s remarkable is these 77 faces, along with countless other designs, were sculptured from existing stone walls.

Using only ladders and scaffolding, often in very uncomfortable positions, these stone artists spent years, at a salary of five dollars a day, sculpturing some of the finest stonework found anywhere in the world.

Among the 77 famous faces beautifully carved into the sandstone staircases are such famous Americans as Washington, Lincoln, Grant, and Susan B. Anthony – each etched with astonishingly fine detail. With the stone gallery of prominent Americans out of the way,

Perry decided to allow his elite group of carvers to sculpt the faces of friends, relatives, and people seen on the streets.



James CarrJames Carr is a writer who otherwise works as a lobbyist in Albany, NY, where he often writes without an otherwise more imaginative style of expression. He is a graduate of the University at Albany, where he once studied English too. James is father of two children who constantly inspire, and tries to notice the little things and write about them. Connect at facebook.com/jamescarralbany or on twitter @jamescarralbany.

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