The Walter Merchant House was built in the mid-19th century. It is a townhouse in the Italianate architectural style that encompasses designs from the Italian Renaissance. During the time that the house was built, many others like it surrounded it but now it is one of few. The house is now surrounded by other important buildings such as the Alfred E. Smith State Office Building and the New York State Capitol; it is also in the vicinity of the armory. The house is beautifully designed and it only makes sense that like most houses of its caliber, someone wealthy must have occupied the premises.
Walter Merchant, he of whom built the house, was one of Albany’s richest merchants. When he acquired the land he would build the house on, Albany was still rapidly growing due to the completion of the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal was a major breakthrough for the 19th century; the waterway contributed a great deal to the settlement of people all over the United States during the time period it was completed and made New York the financial capital of the world. Due to the canal, many people migrated to Albany and it was rapidly growing; most of the people that came in were immigrants. Some of the people who benefitted a lot from the canal began to move into the area that the Merchant House was built in.
Upon the completion of Merchant’s house, many other wealthy people began to model their homes after Merchant’s. The houses’ Italianate features the entrance detailing and decorative cornice, which is the design at the very top of the house sparked the attention of many. The brownstone blocks are made to fit tightly and perfectly together. That technique was influenced from the Renaissance Revival style. After the passing of Walter Merchant, the house has been remodeled a few times. Around 1900, the south side of the house was remodeled in the Queen Anne Style and since then, other renovations have been made to the house. The house is now property of the Social Workers' Association. They acquired it at the end of the 20th century and they remodeled it to serve as their state headquarters.