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Thursday, July 21 at 8:30 p.m. – The New York Capitol Fire

(Rochester, NY) – On March 29, 1911, just days after the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, a terrible inferno raged at the New York State Capitol Building. Together, these two fires left scars on New York history, but they also brought about profound changes to fire prevention regulations that have since saved countless lives nationwide. As the New York State Museum commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, WXXI presents this documentary about the New York Capitol fire—a fire which took its toll via the destruction of irreplaceable historical documents, and which came to be known as the greatest library fire disaster of modern times. The New York Capitol Fire airs Thursday, July 21 at 8:30 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11).

Drawing on interviews, archival materials, and reenactments, this documentary is presented in collaboration with the New York State Museum, the New York State Archives, the Albany Institute, the New York State Library, the City of Albany, and the Commission on the Restoration of the Capitol.

The New York Capitol was declared complete by Gov. Theodore Roosevelt in 1899. It had been under construction for more than 25 years and had cost $25 million (or, approximately half a billion dollars by today's currency). It was admired as one of the most beautiful buildings in America and it housed invaluable archives, but all of that changed on one fiery morning in 1911 as ashes filled the skies of Albany, N.Y.

By the time the fire was put out, the west side of the Capitol's magnificent architecture had been destroyed and the library lost 450,000 books, 270,000 manuscripts and nearly one million catalogue cards. Amazingly, some priceless relics survived the blaze, such as the original manuscript of President George Washington's farewell address, President Abraham Lincoln's original Emancipation Proclamation, and the original copies of the New York State Constitution.

Pictured: 1911 Capitol Fire
Credit: Harry Roy Sweney @ The New York State Museum


WXXI is the essential, life-long educational media resource for the Greater Rochester area. WXXI puts the community first with programming that stimulates and expands thought, inspires the spirit, opens cultural horizons and promotes understanding of diverse community issues. Log on to wxxi.org for more information about our services and programs.