On this site once stood the first Poor House in the United States.
Community care for the poor was an important feature of Dutch society, and it took root here in Albany as the city was settled in the first half of the 1600s.
Constructed between 1652 and 1656, Beverwijck's poor house was the first in New Netherland to be built expressly for the purpose of helping the poor.
It was begun a year before the poor house in Manhattan.
In early Albany, help was available to anyone in need who lived in the village. Residents from all walks of life voluntarily contributed money and alms in the form of food, drink, clothing, shoes, tools, and beaver pelts.
Collections were made by the First Dutch Reformed Church and at poor boxes placed throughout the village.
In addition to the poor, this community fund could also support anyone who wanted to get ahead or start a new project but lacked the means. He or she could borrow money at a 10 percent interest rate - making this the first banking system in New Netherland.
The first poor house was built on this site, behind you, at today's 412 Broadway.
The poor house was built on the south side of the Ruttenkill, one of the three major streams that ran through Albany and emptied into the Hudson River. The Ruttenkill
was buried in pipes in the 1820s, and today flows under the brick alley behind you.
Note the bench next to the poor house. Albany's Dutch settlers built several bridges over the streams. The bridges were fixed with benches for the practicality and enjoyment of the residents.
These few blocks of Broadway were in the 19th and early 20th centuries part of Albany's newspaper hub.
The poor house was on the site of today's Argus Building, built in the 1830s, once the headquarters of the Albany Argus newspaper and publishing house. Other newspaper offices located close to here included the Albany Evening Journal, Knickerbocker Press, and Times Union.
How do we know?
Since 1974 the New Netherland Research Center has supported the translation and transcription of the 17th-century Dutch Colonial records held by the New York State Library and State Archives here in Albany. These records constitute the world's largest collection of original documentation of the Dutch founders of Albany and New York State.