All this year we have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the New York City landmarks law, and today we focus on one of the very first buildings to be granted landmark designation. At the first meeting of the new Landmarks Preservation Commission, on September 21,1965, the Old Merchant’s House – now known as the Merchant’s House Museum – was considered for landmark designation, and was officially designated a landmark on October 14, 1965, New York City’s first individually designated landmark, and one of only 117 interior and exterior landmarks in New York City (there are more than 33,000 properties which are individually landmarked or located within historic districts in New York City).
The Merchant’s House Museum, at 29 East 4th Street (between Lafayette Street and Bowery), is the home of the late Seabury Tredwell and his family. The home was completed in 1832, and occupied by the family until 1933, when Gertrude Tredwell died there at the age of 93. Unlike many other historic homes, the Merchant’s House Museum is furnished with the original belongings of the Tredwell family.
The Tredwell Costume Collection comprises more than 400 articles of clothing, primarily women’s dresses and their accompanying chemisettes, collars, undersleeves, and petticoats. The core of the collection is a remarkable 39 dresses documented to have been owned and worn by the women of the family. Many are outstanding examples of the 19th-century dressmaker’s art, composed of fine and delicate fabrics and ornamentation. Individual dresses are displayed on a rotating basis throughout the year. [from merchantshouse.org]
The New York Times has called the Merchant’s House Museum “Manhattan’s most haunted house.” Every year there are tours of the house in October around Halloween time. And every December the house is decorated for the holidays with poinsettias, lights, and a tree.
GVSHP and Merchant’s House Museum have a long and happy relationship and support each other in many ways. In 2003, GVSHP chose Merchant’s House Museum to receive one of our annual Village Awards. This past year, to celebrate Landmarks 50, we collaborated on two public programs: A lecture about the history and structure of the house, with LPC Commissioner Mike Devonshire, on August 19th, and a walking tour of the NoHo Historic District on September 21st. Next month we will co-present a book talk at Theatre 80 with author Ada Calhoun and her new book, “St Marks is Dead.”
Earlier this year, plans were approved for the construction of an 8-story hotel next door at 27 East 4th Street. We are concerned that the construction will cause damage to the plaster and other elements of the Merchant’s House Museum, so we will be watching this situation closely.