A History of 17 Elk Street

A long and befitting history surrounds CICU's office building at 17 Elk Street in downtown Albany. The building is part of the Lafayette Park Historic District, listed in the New York State and Historic Registers of Historic Places. The district is a complex of great civic architecture and contains a small residential enclave of brick row houses, all overlooking the landscaped city park.

Constructed in 1845, the same year Albany's whale-oil street lights were replaced with gaslights, this Gothic Revival structure once served as the home of the John Van Schaick Lansing Pruyn family. Pruyn, a lawyer and educator, was a member of the senate and chancellor of the University of the State of New York. He is best known for the establishment of the university convocation and the Regents examinations. Pruyn's long career included serving on the boards of various independent colleges and historical societies.

From 1851 to 1910, at a time when New York's economic and industrial growth made appropriate the title "The Empire State," guests at the Pruyn home included General George B. McClellan, Franklin D. Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and many New York governors.

The Commission's acquisition of the building, which was granted historic landmark status in 1978, was made possible through a gift from the Lester Martin Foundation. In 1972, the Foundation gave CICU the Lester Martin House in New York City. The Commission sold that house in 1980 and established the Lester Martin Fund as a continuing memorial to its generous benefactor. This fund subsequently provided the resources necessary for the purchase and renovation of 17 Elk Street in 1982, dedicated as the John Jay Building on March 5, 1984.

John Jay was governor of New York State from 1795 to 1801 as well as chancellor of the Board of Regents, author of the New York State Constitution, and the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He set the sound course for higher education public policy within the University of the State of New York stating, "The public, with us, are, in my opinion, so deeply interested in the education of our citizens, that universities, etc., ought no longer to be regarded in the light of mere private corporations. The government should extend to them their constant care, and the state treasuries afford them necessary supplies."