When Governor Cuomo took office, he pledged to turn the State Capitol into a tourist destination in part by displaying many of the state's historic artifacts that haven't been shown in decades. Monday, the state took another step toward that, unveiling a 200 year old portrait of George Washington. Our Nick Reisman has the story.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- The Capitol is opening to visitors on July 4th in order to celebrate New York's role in the founding of the nation. At the centerpiece of an exhibit highlighting the state's role is a portrait of George Washington. Once in storage in the state Education Building, the painting is again hanging on the first floor of the Capitol for the first time in fifty years.
“The painting of George Washington was commissioned by the Legislature in 1813 and painted by Ezra Ames, who was actually an Albany area artist. He lived in Albany for a number of years,” said Mark Schaming, Director of the New York State Museum.
America's War for Independence may have been fought in nearly every corner of the original 13 colonies, but it was here in New York that much of the history was made. It's where the colonists won key victories at Ticonderoga and Saratoga, where Washington made his headquarters in Newburgh and the site of Benedict Arnold's betrayal.
Schaming said, “You know, often when people think of history, they don't realize much of the nation's history began here as an important junctures of history from the beginnings of the nation until now. This is about using the Capitol as a museum and using the treasures of New York to tell that story to the public.”
Since taking office, Governor Andrew Cuomo has made a point of refurbishing the Capitol into a more tourist-friendly destination. The Hall of Governors now boasts artifacts from nearly every governor in addition to their official portraits. Cuomo said when he took office that it's about making state government more tangible to New Yorkers.
Cuomo said, “People refer to the Capitol as a fort or as a bunker. It is anything but. This is a beautiful monument to democracy this building. This is the peoples' meeting place and they should be invited in.”