ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Empire State Plaza is a multi-use group of buildings that has a vast history in New York State’s capital city. For the Plaza’s 50th anniversary in 2015, the New York State Museum put together an exhibit, in-person and online, to commemorate the occasion.
Here’s the history of the Empire State Plaza, according to the New York State Museum.
The Empire State Plaza was the idea of former Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, who the Plaza is named after. He wanted the project to help centralize New York State’s expanding workforce into the center of Albany.
The architecture for the Plaza was inspired by the International Style that emerged in the 1920s and 1930s. This style included simple, unornamented buildings with logical floor plans. Inspiration for the Plaza came from the Palace of Versailles in France, the Brasilia in Brasil, Rockefeller Center in New York City, and the United Nations building in New York City.
In June 1965, Rockefeller laid the cornerstone of the Plaza, and construction began. The first building completed was the Legislative Office Building in 1972, and the last was the Egg in 1978.
More than 60 contractors and over 1,500 subcontractors and suppliers helped build the Plaza. During this time, Albany was described as a “boomtown,” with Plaza construction drawing people from all over the country for specialized building trades.
In 1960, the New York State Office of General Services (OGS) was formed. The agency was designed to care for and manage the state’s office buildings. OGS oversaw the Empire State Plaza construction, and still manages the Plaza today.
Starting in 1965, Rockefeller assembled a commission of art experts to select the works for the Empire State Plaza Art Collection. This collection has been heralded as “the greatest collection of modern American art in any single public site that is not a museum.” There are 92 works in the collection, including works by artists Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, David Smith, Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, Franz Kline, Louise Nevelson, and Alexander Calder.
Today, the Plaza includes the art collection, the Corning Tower Observation Deck, the Vietnam Memorial Gallery, the State Museum, and the Egg, as well as government agencies and offices. OGS also hosts events, vendors, tours, exhibits, and more at the Plaza.