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Merchant's House Museum

Merchant’s House Museum

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Both a New York City and a National Historic Landmark, this 1832 rowhouse is among the finest surviving examples of late-Federal and Greek Revival architecture. It remains virtually unchanged from the time when it was the home of the affluent 19th century merchant family of Seabury (1780-1865) and Eliza (1797-1882) Tredwell and their eight children. The Merchant’s House, as it is now known, is the only family home in New York City to survive intact, inside and out, from the 1830’s.

The Tredwell family moved into this house in 1835. Over the years, as the City continued to grow, the Tredwells’s neighbors gradually abandoned the popular Bond Street area, building even more elegant homes uptown. For reasons unknown, the Tredwells remained where they were. The youngest Tredwell child, Gertrude (1840-1933), never married; when she died in the upstairs bedroom in 1933 at the age of 93, the family had occupied this house for almost 100 years.

The formal Greek Revival parlors with their black and gold marble masterpieces, Ionic columns, mahogany pocket doors, and matching plaster ceiling medallions, reflect and convey the prevailing taste of a bygone era. Three floors of the house are available for viewing: the ground floor, comprising the family dining room and kitchen, the parlor floor, and a bedroom floor.

The unaltered interior of the house is filled with the family’s furniture and belongings. Everything one would expect to find in a well-appointed 19th-century home is here: period furniture from New York’s finest cabinet makers (including Duncan Phyfe and Joseph Meeks), opulent decorative accessories such as Argand oil lamps with crystal prisms, original oil paintings of European vistas, porcelains, and silver decorative arts.

Personal possessions, from unfinished needlework, family photographs, and books, to a shaving mirror and sewing boxes, leave the impression that the family has just stepped out and will return shortly. Dresses belonging to the Tredwell women, along with gloves, hats, shoes, parasols, shawls, and undergarments are displayed on a rotating basis. These items span over 60 years and illustrate the changing profile of American fashion in the 19th century.

The Museum, located on East 4th Street between the Bowery and Lafayette Street, offers educational programs for adults and schoolchildren, guided tours, lectures, readings, concerts, exhibitions, performances, and other events throughout the year. In 1997, the Museum formed an alliance with The Historic House Trust of New York City, which works in partnership with Parks to preserve, enhance, and support the historic houses located in parks in all five boroughs. Considered together, these houses provide a visible link to more than 250 years of New York City history.

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