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'.

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.