The Tredwells Never Left: All Hallows’ Eve At The Merchant’s House Museum

Posted on: October 31st, 2018 at 5:04 am by

From the Merchant’s House:

In 1835, after 32 years in the hardware business, Seabury Tredwell retired and bought a house at 29 East Fourth Street. He was 55 years old. An eighth child, Gertrude, was born in the Fourth Street house in 1840.

Only three of the Tredwell children married. Elizabeth, the oldest daughter, and Effingham Nichols were wed in 1845. He was an attorney and a prominent figure in the development of the Union Pacific Railroad. Mary married Charles Richards, a hardware merchant, in 1848.

Samuel’s first wife died, and in 1884 he married for a second time. Today, there are only six living direct descendants of Seabury and Eliza Tredwell, all descended from Samuel and his second wife.

An Elderly Gertrude: Courtesy of Merchants House Museum

So, why is it considered Manhattan’s most haunted home? Many believe Gertrude never left, and according to some docents and visitors, Horace has been visiting as of late.

Of Seabury and Eliza’s eight children, five never married, and three of those five never even left 29 East 4th Street (Phebe, Julia, and Gertrude). They died within these walls, and like most of the family, were waked in the double parlor; the coffins perched and draped in black.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Here are many of their obituaries:

NYT: March 10, 1865, Seabury’s Obituary

Elizabeth Tredwell aka Eliza. NYT: March 25, 1863

Sarah Tredwell: NYT: October 12, 1906

Horace Tredwell: NYT: January 24, 1885

Eliza Tredwell: NYT: May 2, 1882

Gertrude Tredwell: NYT: August, 22, 1933

Eerie.

Granted, there is an abundance of information about the Tredwells, what with all of their belongings (for the most part) being in the Merchant’s House archives. Yet, one question gnaws at me – why did they stay? According to the MHM blog:

Seabury Tredwell saw no reason to change his address just because it was the fashionable thing to do, and after his death, the women of the family may not have had the emotional resources to pull up stakes, for they continued to live in the Fourth Street house for the rest of their lives. When Gertrude Tredwell died in 1933, saloons and manufacturing lofts were her neighbors and the nearby Bowery had achieved notoriety as the nation’s skid row.

And according to the New York Times:

“By the 1860s the beau monde had moved north, and the neighborhood became a commercial, working-class district. Why the Tredwells stayed is a mystery. Seabury died in 1865, leaving each of his children $10,000 (roughly $150,000 today). They also inherited hundreds of acres of land in Rumson, N.J., and Brooklyn, which they gradually sold off as their money drained away. Gertrude died impoverished.”

The Astors, The Van Cortlandts, The Potters all also known as members of the Four Hundred a/k/a High Society a/k/a the number of people Mrs. William Backhouse Astor Jr. (Caroline Webster “Lina” Schermerhorn Astor) could fit in her ballroom (actually 297, but she would never admit that). She was the self proclaimed “The” Mrs. Astor and to her, the nouveau riche were a ghastly addition to the upper class. Ironic though because “old money” is generally defined as four or five generations deep. I guess “The” Mrs. Astor, daughter of a Van Cortlandt and a Schermerhorn: merchants/newly rich didn’t get the memo.

Bear with me here. Seabury was a new money merchant. That coupled with the fact that their family was often referred to as the cousins of the Vanderbilts; also, newly rich might be enough to, I dunno, make someone want to hide in their house.  Perhaps, the disdain of “The” Mrs. Astor cast a shadow of influence among their would-be peers great enough to cause seclusion.

NYT: October 13, 1903

Off went the the Four Hundred to the Avenues of 5th and Madison, some to Park and in their place, came new money – Billy McMahon, Andrew Garvey – members of The Tweed ring, the diamond Lynches, Big Tim Sullivan, and David Gardiner and his family. They too would eventually move on up and out of Manhattan, once again, leaving the Tredwells behind. As such, the family became increasingly isolated. It is certainly possible they did not want to leave the home their father built:

NYT: October, 13, 1906

Courtesty of LOC

Courtesy of LOC

Back at the house, I swear Seabury is going to open an eye or sit up. Little did I know it would be another family member scaring the crap out of me later in the tour. Fear not for spoilers because the MHM changes the scares every year, but fear because you WILL be scared and you won’t know when.

When you’re done and drinking at Phebe’s, understand that it’s highly likely named for Phebe Tredwell. Right on the Bowery.

You know, the place where some money, old money and new money are again at odds, this time over condos and hotels. But hey, if the trendy (barf) Bowery gets you down you can always take a turn on 4th street for full fledged time jump to the good ol’ days.

Gertrude is waiting for you and smiling. She’s been here all the while.

Gertrude Tredwell

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