Editor’s Note: This post originally ran in 2010 and has been updated. You can read the previous post here.
Lived in by just one family for almost 100 years, the elegant brick house at 29 East 4th Street in Manhattan is preserved intact, inside and out. Now the Merchant’s House Museum, it offers a window into the daily life of a prosperous family in 19th century New York.
The Late Federal/Greek Revival house was built in 1832, and bought by merchant Seabury Tredwell in 1835. It was the home of the Tredwell family until 1933, and opened as a museum in 1936.
Seabury Tredwell and his wife, Eliza, lived in the house with their eight children, four Irish servants and a revolving host of relatives. At the time it was built, their home was in the midst of the very affluent and posh Bond Street area. When the neighborhood became less fashionable, and their neighbors moved uptown, the Tredwells remained on East 4th Street.
Of the eight children, only three married. It was the youngest unmarried child, Gertrude, who continued to live in the house after the death of her parents. Gertrude was born in the house in 1840 and died in an upstairs bedroom in 1933 at the age of 93. She managed to hold onto the house through good times and bad, seeing the neighborhood change into a manufacturing area with rooming houses and flophouses. After her death, a distant relative bought the house and turned it over to a nonprofit organization, and it became a museum in 1936. Some claim that Gertrude never truly left the house and it is frequently described as one of the most haunted places in New York City.
Since no one but the Tredwells ever lived in it, the house is a perfect time capsule. The house is important for the outstanding collection of original furnishings, decorative objects, clothing and other effects of the Tredwell family.
Seabury Tredwell became a rich merchant as New York was becoming a major seaport and his house reflects the life led by someone of his class and standing. Among the eye-catching items on view are furniture pieces by Duncan Phyfe and Joseph Meeks, pier mirrors, gas-light fixtures and ornate plasterwork.
In 1965, the house was one of the first 20 landmarks designated after the passage of the New York City Landmarks Law and that year it was also designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1981, the house’s interior was also designated a New York City Landmark, one of only 117 interiors to have that distinction.
Today, the Merchant’s House Museum is operated by the Old Merchants House of New York Inc., is owned by the City of New York and is a member of the Historic House Trust. Visitors can explore period rooms from the attic bedrooms of the servants to the formal dining room of the family. The museum has a robust program schedule, including a popular annual reenactment of the 1865 funeral service of Seabury Tredwell, complete with a coffin procession to the nearby New York Marble Cemetery.
How to Visit
Address: 29 East 4th Street, New York, N.Y.
Hours: Friday through Monday, 12 to 5 p.m. with a guided tour at 2 p.m., Thursday, 12 to 8 p.m. with guided tours at 2 and 6:30 p.m.
Admission: $13 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, children under 12 free.
Directions: Subway N or R to 8th Street, 6 to Astor Place, F or B to Broadway/Lafayette.
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