The Shees were a wealthy merchant family in Kilkenny in the sixteenth century much like the Rothes who built Rothe House. In 1582, Sir Richard Shee founded the alms house 'to accommodate twelve poor persons'.
During Sir Richard's life time he acquired a great deal of church property probably to prevent it from falling into the hands of reformers. He was known to be a very religious man. He said in his will that if the house was passed from the family the relative would be cursed, this curse would explain some of the desperate attempts to keep the house in the family down through the years.
The Shee family came from Co. Kerry and Sir Richard Shee was a brilliant lawyer and a member of one of the most powerful and influential families in Kilkenny in the 16th century.
Richard Shee held the office of Deputy Treasurer of Ireland and received a knighthood in 1582. He died in 1608. In 1752 the alms house was sold by Edmond Shee .
The Shees were dispossessed during the Cromwellian era
The Shee family regained ownership of the house in 1756. The last record of any inmates in the house date back to 1830. The Alms house was in 1978 acquired by Kilkenny Corporation and restored to its original condition.
In 1981 it was reopened as the present tourist office in the city. In 1986 the City Scope project, a miniature scaled model of Kilkenny in the 16th century, opened on the second floor of the building. It is one of the few remaining Tudor alms houses in Ireland.
The building presently houses Kilkenny Tourist Office