Our History

Frans Jansen Pruyn, the first member of the family to come to this country, arrived in Albany in the 1660s and by 1683 family members appear on the rolls of the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany. The next several generations married into prominent local Dutch families such as the Lansings, Gansevoorts, Van Zandts, Bogarts, Ten Eycks, Gerritses, Van Burens and Van Santvoords.

Casparus Francis Pruyn (1792-1846), sixth generation, was the land and business agent for Stephen Van Rensselaer III, one of the last patroons of the Van Rensselaer Manor. He served from 1835 to 1844, after having apprenticed in the position under his uncle, Robert Dunbar. Almost all of Albany and Rensselaer  County and parts of present-day Columbia and Greene County was under lease from the patroon and all the farm tenants had to pay their rent, usually in produce and livestock, to the Land Agent every year.

A patroon owned large tracts of land in the Dutch colony of New Netherland.  Rensselaerwyck was the largest and most successful patroonship in New Netherland.  The Patroon System continued even after the English take over of New Netherland in 1664 and lasted until the death of Stephen Van Rensselaer III in 1839.

It appears that the Pruyn House was built between 1825 and 1830 on land owned by Robert Dunbar as a country home for Casparus, his wife Ann Hewson and their family. Their son, Robert Hewson Pruyn, was educated at Albany Academy and Rutgers, studied law and was one of the founders of Albany Law School.  In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln appointed him Minister (ambassador) to the faraway Kingdom of Japan.

In 1848, two years after Casparus Pruyn’s death, the property of 114 acres was purchased by Alfred Mayell for $3,800. It was next owned by several others until 1893 when the remaining 80 acres were purchased by John H. Henkes Jr. and his wife Carrie, at an Albany County auction. Very few structural changes have been made. Henry (Syd) Bailey, the last owner, died in 1981 and left the estate, now 5 ½ acres, to relatives.

The house was built in “high style,” a combination of Federal and Greek Revival architecture and retains its farm-like setting. It is listed on the National and State registers of historic Places.