Old Merchant's House



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Merchant's House Museum, known formerly as Old Merchant's House and as the Seabury Tredwell House, is a Federal-style red-brick row house built in 1832 by Joseph Brewster. It is located at 29 East Fourth Street, between Lafayette Street and the Bowery, Manhattan, New York City. It was designed by Minard Lafever. Merchant's House Museum became a museum in 1936 and is the only nineteenth century family home in New York City preserved intact - both inside and outside. The Merchant's House Museum building underwent a major restoration in 1971 by Joseph Roberto (architect) and Carolyn Roberto (interior design).

Gertrude and her seven siblings, two brothers and five sisters, all lived here together with their parents, four servants, and an ever-changing assortment of nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and other relatives.
Seabury died in 1865 and the remaining family lived at the home into old age. Gertrude, the youngest member of the immediate family, lived here alone for 24 years after her sister Julia died in 1909. As she grew older and more eccentric she became obsessed with holding on to the elegant home in a neighborhood that had become, by the early 20th century, a run-down, semi-industrial, and disreputable part of town. Only two daughters and one son ever married, which was unusual for that era and for an affluent family with social position. Burdened with severe financial hardship in her last years, she somehow managed to keep this beautiful home in nearly original condition, long after all the neighboring private homes had been demolished or converted into rooming houses, tenements, or commercial structures.
After her death, a distant cousin, George Chapman, purchased the building, saving it from foreclosure and demolition. In 1936, after needed repair and renovation, the house opened as a museum and has remained such ever since. The Merchant’s House Museum remains a unique time capsule of the lives of a typical affluent New York merchant family of the 19th Century complete with the original possessions of the family. Gertrude haunts the house Several doors east of the museum at 37 East 4th Street is the Samuel Tredwell Skidmore House, a Greek Revival house built for a cousin of Samuel Tredwell. That building is also a New York City Landmark (designated 1970), but is in disrepair and in need of restoration.

In addition to its magnificent Merchant's House Museum period rooms, the Merchant's House Museum presents many performances, presentations, lectures, exhibits and special events throughout the year. Ongoing research and state-of-the-art documentation and conservation techniques assure that more is constantly being learned about the House, Merchant's House Museum furnishings and outstanding textile collections, and “what life was really like” for a 19th century New York family.
In 1991, in a joint effort with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the Merchant’s House Museum launched the educational program, “Greenwich Village: History and Historic Preservation.” The program was designed to teach students local history, architectural vocabulary, and the fundamentals of historic preservation. The program ran through the end of the 1990s at the Museum, but eventually shifted its focus into the West Village, where Merchant's House Museum continues to reach out to students in the five boroughs.

Due to its architectural and historic importance, the Merchant's House has been recognized by the following landmark designations:
1981 - Designated as a New York City interior landmark
1965 - Designated as a National Historic Landmark and part of the National Historic Trust in New York
1965 - Designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission as one of the first 20 New York City landmarks
1966 - Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
1936 - Documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey