Merchant's House Museum

There is only one  nineteenth-century family home in New York City  that is  preserved intact , both inside and out.   House was among the first 20 buildings designated in 1965 under the City’s new landmarks law. It is the only historic house museum in the Greenwich Village/Soho/NoHo neighborhoods .  The house is located  between Lafayette Street and the Bowery in Manhattan.  Everything about this Federal-style building creates an immediate sense of warmth: It looks, feels, even smells like it could be a great-great-grandparent’s old house.
Both a New York City and a National Historic Landmark, this 1832 row house is among the finest surviving examples of late-Federal and Greek Revival architecture.

The house was owned by Seabury Tredwell’s family  almost for  hundred years- from 1835 until the death of Tredwell’s daughter Gertrude in 1933 at the age of 93.

Seabury Tredwell’s great-great-great grandfather  arrived to Massachusetts from   England, around 1637.  On his mother’s side, Seabury was directly descended from Mayflower passengers John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, whose romance was immortalized in 1858 in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s narrative poem “The Courtship of Miles Standish.”  In 1798, when he was 18, Seabury came to New York City.  He had a successful hardware business -   a warehouse in Downtown on Perl street. 

At the age of forty he married  to a beautiful 23- year old girl. In  1835  the family  moved   into a new Federal-style townhouse on East Fourth Street.  At the time, the area between Washington Square Park and recently opened Lafayette Place was the most fashionable section of the city. The merchant bought the house for    $18,000.
Seabury died in 1865 and the remaining family lived at the home into old age till his younger daughter  Gertrude died in 1933. Seven daughters and two sons of   Seabury lived in this house together. Only two daughters and one son ever married.

The younger daughter Gertrude had lived her entire life in the same house. At the age of 93 she  died  in the same room on the same bed in which she had been born. In her last years Gertrude had been living  alone in greatly reduced circumstances and she heavily mortgaged her house.
When the house and its contents were being prepared for auction, a great nephew  George Chapman bought it and made it into a museum. Museum opened its doors to public in 1936. In April of 1965, Mayor Robert F. Wagner signed into law legislation that would give way to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.  In the 50 years since its founding, the LPC has ruled on thousands of buildings and historic districts,  in its first year alone it designated 38 structures and Merchant house among them.

 In 1981, the interior of the Merchant’s House was formally designated as a landmarked site by the City of New York. Today it is one of only 114 sites to be so designated. The Museum’s collection of Tredwells’ original possessions comprise over  3000 objects: furnishings, decorations, lighting devices, household, personal and sewing accessories, family photographs, books, ephemera, works of art, costumes, and textiles. 
If you visit the Merchants House, you will see a vacant lot to its east and a one story garage to its west. The three low rise buildings on the east  were demolished in 1987, causing $1 million in damage to the Merchants House, shutting it down for two years.  In 2012, plans were submitted for a 9-story hotel on the lot to the west of the Merchants House.

 On April 82014 , the Landmarks Preservation Commission   approved plans for the hotel.
Every year in October, the Merchant's House is "in mourning" and is transformed into a display of Victorian mourning customs. They host lectures on Victorian death and dying customs and Victorian Halloween practices. They also host candlelight ghost tours since the Merchant's House is said to be the "most haunted site in New York City." One of the most popular events hosted by the Merchant's House is the reenactment of the 1865 funeral of Seabury Tredwell. The guests are encouraged to dress in Victorian mourning costume, or all black. The funeral is held in the parlor,   and then the casket is carried by pallbearers to the New York City Marble Cemetery where there is a graveside service.

Museum is open    Friday through Monday, 12 to 5 p.m.  Every Thursday in June and July, the Merchant’s House Museum and Garden are open until 8 p.m. I visited this  museum  for free on Open House weekend.  I was the only  one visitor!

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