New York Architecture Images-Lower East Side

Merchant's House Museum  Landmark


builder: Joseph Brewster 


29 East 4th St.  










Special thanks to Stan Ries, Madeleine Doering and Margaret Halsey Gardiner. 




Dating from the 1830s, this building was a part of a group of well-built, speculative row houses, of which only this structure survives. Built from the pages of pattern books such as that by Minard Lafever, at the time these houses sat at the northeastern edge of the city. This row house indicates the transition from the Federal Style to the Greek Revival Style with the inclusion of such classical elements as the colonettes surrounding the entrance. Saved by the Historic Landmarks Society, this is a great and rare example of how upper middle classes lived in the 1830's.

The House, The History

Built in 1832, the Merchant's House Museum is a unique survivor of old New York.  It is New York City's only family home preserved intact - inside and out - from the 19th century. Home to a prosperous merchant family for almost 100 years, it is complete with its original furniture, decorative arts, clothing, and personal memorabilia. 

To visit the Merchant's House is to experience what life was like for a wealthy New York City merchant family in the middle of the 19th century.

The Family
An importer of hardware with a business downtown on Pearl Street, near the South Street Seaport, Seabury Tredwell was a typical wealthy New York City merchant of the first half of the 19th century.


Seabury and Eliza Tredwell

In 1835, he and his wife, Eliza, moved their large family of seven children, two boys and five girls, into the red-brick and white-marble row house located in the Bond Street Area, just north of the growing city.  Since the 1820s, this exclusive residential suburb  had provided a refuge for wealthy merchants who wanted to escape the congestion of lower Manhattan as it became more and more commercial. "The elegance and beauty of this section cannot be surpassed in the country," exclaimed one New York newspaper in 1835. New York had established itself as the preeminent port of the United States, and its economy and population were exploding.

  Bond Street 1857


 Ernest Fiedler Family in their parlor,
                                                                             38 Bond Street, 1850


Five years later, in 1840, an eighth child, Gertrude, was born in the house.  Over the years, as the city continued to grow and fashion changed, the Tredwells' neighbors gradually abandoned the neighborhood for more elegant houses "uptown." But the Tredwells remained. Gertrude Tredwell never married and continued to live in the house until she died in an upstairs bedroom in 1933. The house was opened to the public as a museum in 1936.

  Gertrude Tredwell

To see more pictures of the family, click here.

The House
Architecturally, the Merchant's House is considered one of the finest surviving examples of the period. The exterior façade is late-Federal, with dormer windows and a fanlight above the front door.                  


Inside, one of the most exquisite Greek Revival interiors can be found. The formal parlors feature identical black-and-gold marble mantelpieces, a stunning Ionic double-column screen, and mahogany pocket doors separating the rooms. The matching plaster ceiling medallions are among the finest such designs extant.


Greek Revival parlors  



Charles Lockwood, noted architectural historian and author of Bricks and Brownstone: The New York Rowhouse 1783 - 1929, has deemed the ornamental plasterwork in the Merchant's House "a triumph of New York's timeless Greek Revival style."

When built in 1832, the house included all of the modern technological conveniences of the era, including piping for illuminating gas, a 4000-gallon cistern, and a bell system that summoned the four live-in servants.

Three floors of the house are available for viewing, including the ground floor, with its original kitchen, and one bedroom floor.



The importance of the Merchant's House has been recognized by numerous landmark designations. In 1936, it was documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey; in 1964, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark and is one of only 2,000 in the country ( to see the certificate, click here). On October 14, 1965, the Merchant's House  was designated as one of the first 20 New York City Landmarks; on December 22, 1981, it was designated as a New York City interior landmark; and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Collections
The interior is filled with the family's furniture and belongings, including pieces from New York's finest cabinetmakers, such as and Duncan Phyfe and Joseph Meeks, along with opulent
decorative accessories.

Personal possessions -- unfinished needlework, family photographs, a shaving mirror, sewing boxes -- leave the impression that the family has just stepped out for a minute. Dresses belonging to Eliza Tredwell and her six daughters along with gloves, hats, shoes, parasols, shawls, and undergarments are displayed on a rotating basis.  To see other costumes from the collection, click here .

                    Silk dress circa 1860

On rotating exhibition are items from the Tredwells' country home, "Sea Bright," in Rumson, New Jersey. To learn more about "Sea Bright," click here.

The Museum Today
The museum is a member of the Historic House Trust of New York City, which works in partnership with the City of New York/Parks and Recreation to preserve, promote, and support the 19 historic houses located in parks in all five boroughs.

The museum offers educational programs for adults and schoolchildren, walking tours, lectures, readings, concerts, and other events throughout the year. Today it survives as the only material link to that important era of New York City history when maritime commerce flourished, and New York became the preeminent port of the nation.

The Museum is open Thursday through Monday noon to 5 p.m.  Group tours are by appointment throughout the week.

If you have any questions, please contact them at

The directors of the Merchant’s House Museum at 29 East 4th Street want to construct an architecturally appropriate rear porch on the back of this 1832 Federal style house, which is the only nineteenth-century New York family dwelling open to the public. To that end, the executive director, Margaret “Pi” Gardiner, has initiated an in-depth research project—supervised by Charles Lockwood, who will prepare a report on the project’s findings—so that an accurate restoration of the rear façade can be studied and planned.

The front facades of New York’s Federal style row houses have long been the subject of architectural and historical research. Virtually no one, however, has ever studied the backs of Federal style houses, or their yards. What did the rear facades look like? Did the rear Federal style facades have the partly open porches or “tearooms” like so many 1840s and 1850s New York row houses?

Of equal importance, what did the back yards of the city’s Federal style row houses look like? How were the rear yards used? Were they planted in ornamental shrubs and flowers? Or were they more utilitarian with uses such as a “bathing house” or toilet, a water-storage cistern, a wood pile, a smoke house, even a small stable? The research and report will answer these and many other questions.

The Board of Directors of the Merchant’s House Museum can then go forward with the design and construction of an architecturally-appropriate rear porch. This research project will also yield long-unknown information about the appearance of the rear facades of early nineteenth-century New York row houses, as well as the uses of the back yards, which will be useful to homeowners and scholars alike.

Completed in 1832, the Merchant’s House Museum has a late Federal style façade, complete with fanlight doorway and two dormer windows. Inside, its double parlors celebrate the city’s then-emerging Greek Revival style with Ionic columns between the two rooms, splendid marble fireplace mantels, and extraordinary Greek-influenced ceiling plasterwork. The property, home to the Seabury Treadwell family from 1835 to 1933, opened as a museum in the mid-1930s.

Thanks to Charles Lockwood.

Vicinity of the Merchant’s House: the Bond Street Area

When the Seabury Treadwell family moved into their 29 East 4th Street row house in 1835, they were living in one of New York's most fashionable and best-known residential neighborhoods:   the Bond Street area, which consisted of the east-to-west streets north of Houston Street and adjacent to Broadway, specifically, Bleecker, Bond, Great Jones, and East 4th Streets.   Highly desirable Lafayette Place, location of the famed Colonnade Row, ran north-to-south several blocks from Astor Place to Great Jones Street.

There, elegant brick and marble-front row houses and mansions, the homes of some of New York's leading families, lined the serene tree-lined streets.   "The elegance and beauty of this section cannot be surpassed in the country," exclaimed one New York newspaper in 1835.  

The Bond Street area's years of residential fashion sadly were fleeting.   By the late 1840s, elegant shops and hotels began to replace the fine dwellings along Broadway in the Bond Street area and marked the beginning of the area's decline as a residential neighborhood.   "The mania for converting Broadway into a street of shops is greater than ever," wrote [diarist and former Mayor] Philip Hone in 1850.   "There is scarcely a block in the whole extent of this fine street of which some part is not in a state of transmutation."   Fleeing this unwanted commercial intrusion, the rich often-prominent families abandoned their by-then-old-fashioned dwellings in the Bond Street area for the showy "brownstone-fronts" of Fifth Avenue and Madison Square

After the Civil War, the Bond Street area lost all semblance of its patrician past.   The elegant dwellings became "restaurants of private boarding-houses, barroom or groceries, peculiar physicians' offices or midwives' headquarters."   Other houses became sweatshops, lofts, or warehouses.

In the 1880s, the city extended Lafayette Place, originally several blocks long, from Great Jones Street south to the City Hall area--thus cutting a rude swath through the middle of Bond and Bleecker Streets.   Noisy wagons and, later, trucks rumbled through the once-serene streets of the Bond Street area.   Soon after World War I, the last private dwellings on Bond Street succumbed to commercial usage.   Many were torn down, and newer commercial buildings erected on their sites.

Only a bedraggled handful of row houses survive on Bleecker, Bond, Great Jones, and East 4th Streets.   On Bond Street, for instance, only No. 26, with its elaborate fanlight doorway and dormer windows intact, recalls the street's past dignity.   A few pathetic houses still stand at the Broadway and Bowery ends of the block--the basement and first floors converted into a store front or truck-loading platform.

The Seabury Tredwell house on East 4th Street [now open to the public as the Merchant's House Museum] alone retains its original grandeur.




Merchant's House Museum
29 East Fourth Street
New York, NY 10003

212 777 1089
212 777 1104 fax