The Merchant’s House is one of my very favorite places and I had the great delight if returning recently. They restored and opened up the servant’s quarters, though it has many stairs to climb to get there and probably wasn’t much fun in hot months, it really is the best seat in the house.
The spirits of two Irish servants, Anne McNulty and Bridgette Murphy, are said to be about the place. Life was hard for them, long hours and little pay but a servant’s life provided room and board so they could send money home. They escaped the great potato famine like so many others looking for a better life and way to provide for their families in Ireland. Religious clashes were certain as Seabury Treadwell was not the least bit fond of Catholics. It is written in the self guide-book that they did indeed have trouble with their religion and employer. As did many others who came over from all over the world. Culture, class and belief systems kept everyone well at arm’s length even living under the same roof.
They were on call from dawn into the night working on their duties even in their sanctuary at the top of the house. With a man as seemingly difficult as Seabury and eight children the job must have been an especially demanding one. Still they are said to remain in the house. Are they still working hard so they can relieve the misery back home? Or do they too love the place as much as Gertrude? Were they the servants that buried the fabled murdered baby of Sarah Tredwell? Are they doomed to guard this secret? Or is that just a tale for ghost lore? Interestingly enough Sarah is the one Tredwell child who has no clearly identified photograph. That and the fact she left home might have help to spin this unsubstantiated story of the child and the scandal that perhaps never was.
Anne and Bridgette might just be dutiful ladies who still love the house. It is a house easy to fall for and obviously hard to leave. Their room was restored charmingly enough and the space felt bright and pleasant.
The house without the Christmas decorations does feel more like a time slip. Being transported into that world is a privilege. I did not see or hear anything this time but felt a great deal. In the restroom downstairs I felt a presence behind me, almost embrace me, when I turned out the light. And they was a feeling of being observed throughout the house. It seems like a living thing and really is an authentic shrine to what has passed away.
After revisiting rooms that now were familiar and the new treat of the uppermost floor we were ready to leave. As we walked toward the front door of the house I felt a sadness emanate from the piano room. Perhaps it was part of my sadness in leaving and part of the house which is now in great peril. I hope to return soon and I hope very much it is saved. Please take time to sign this petition and save Merchant’s house. When it was originally built it was supported by two other houses that are long gone. It is fragile now but any blasting or construction would cause it to crumble and be lost forever. It is a very significant part of our history and to lose it, when so much else has been lost in the city, would be unforgivable. And for a hipster hotel no less!!! So let’s beat the Donald Trumps with sideburns and save this beautiful and important part of us.
If you are in New York do make the time for the hearing on June the 19th. From their Facebook events page: