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National Historic Landmark FORT CRAILO
New York

Location: Rensselaer County, on Riverside Street south of Columbia Street, Rensselaer.

Ownership and Administration. State of New York; Department of Education, University of the State of New York, Albany.

Significance. Fort Crailo, a brick manor house on the east bank of the Hudson River, was probably built around the beginning of the 18th century. Standing near the center of what was once the 700,000-acre estate of Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, who managed the first and only successful patroonship established by authority of the Dutch West India Company, its role in Dutch life in the Albany region was a major one. The architectural changes that have taken place over the years merely emphasize the wealth of the various socially prominent Dutch owners, who enlarged and altered their residence as the need arose.

The immense Van Rensselaer estate was founded in 1630. Van Rensselaer was a wealthy diamond merchant of Amsterdam, whose agents obtained a vast tract that extended from the mouth of the Mohawk River southward for 20 miles along both sides of the Hudson, and a total width of almost 50 miles. Fort Crailo, headquarters of this empire, was built on the site of Rensselaer, known then as "Greenen Bosch"—"Pine Forest" in Dutch and corrupted later to "Green Bush."

Some authorities believe that Fort Crailo dates from 1642, but others contend that it was constructed later of material from an earlier house, or that it stands on the foundation of the 1642 residence built by Rensselaer's first agent. The State of New York, however, credits the building to Hendrick Van Rensselaer, younger brother of the patroon, and dates it about 1704. It is known that the Van Rensselaer family occupied the house as early as that year and continued to live in it until 1871.

In 1740, Col. Johannes Van Rensselaer added a cross hall and dining room, upstairs rooms, and the remainder of the ell extending behind the main building. A grandson of Johannes made other alterations early in the 19th century. In 1924, a Van Rensselaer descendant donated the old house to the State of New York. During restoration, the State eliminated most of the 19th-century alterations.

Fort Crailo
Fort Crailo, probably built in the first part of the 18th century, was headquarters of the immense Van Rensselaer estate, at one time a 700,000-acre patroonship.

Present Appearance. Fort Crailo consists of two and one-half stories and a cellar; the earliest portion includes two rooms and a hall on the first and second floor. The heavy brick walls are laid in Dutch crossbond. The loopholes on the lower floor indicate the original defensive nature of the house. In keeping with the house's significance as the manorial seat of a foremost Hudson Valley Dutch family, it is furnished with care. Maintained in good condition, it is open throughout the year. [51]

NHL Designation: 11/05/61

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Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005