Merchant House–a home saved by a love story

There is a lonely 19th-century house on East 4th Street. The only relic from the by-gone era, it owes its survival to a women’s broken heart.

The house was bought in 1835 by Seabury Tredwell, a wealthy New York merchant. Mr. and Mrs. Tredwell oversaw a lively household consisting of their eight children, many relatives, and a staff of servants. Tredwells moved into the house with seven older children. Gertrude (the youngest daughter) was born in the house in 1840 and was destined to live there until the end of her days.

When she came of age, Gertrude fell in love with a young Catholic man. The choice was rendered unacceptable by her Episcopal family, and her father, Seabury Tredwell, forbade her to marry. Heartbroken, Gertrude swore that if she could not wed her beloved, she would never marry at all. And she never did. . .

She lived in the house where she was born until she took her last breath at the age of ninety-three. She never married and outlived all the members of her family, staying there alone for 24 lonely years.

By the early 20th century, the neighborhood changed from an elegant part of town into a semi-industrial working-class area. The wealthy abandoned it, moving their posh residences northward to more fashionable neighborhoods. But not Gertrude Tredwell! She stayed in the house, keeping it exactly as it was back in the 1800s. While all the neighboring private homes were demolished (or converted into tenements), 29 East Fourth Street remained as it ever was.

The Merchant’s House Museum, opened in 1936, survives as a unique time capsule of the 19th-century merchant family life. Saved by a tragic love story, it is the only 19th-century family home preserved intact in its original form.

Location: 29 East Fourth Street, between Lafayette Street and the Bowery
Built: 1832

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