Gertrude Tredwell, born into privilege in genteel 19th century New York, had many advantages.
She also reportedly had a domineering father and a lost love. And 80 years after her death, her spirit is rumored to roam the house where she lived all of her 93 years.
Her life began in 1840, the youngest of the eight children of merchant Seabury Tredwell.
Tredwell had a successful hardware business, and five years before Gertrude was born, he moved his brood into a new Federal-style townhouse on East Fourth Street.
At the time, the area between Washington Square Park and recently opened Lafayette Place was the most fashionable section of the city.
Gertrude grew up in comfort, but her life took a tragic turn. “According to the family’s history, Gertrude fell in love with a doctor, Lewis Walton,” wrote Philip Ernest Schoenberg in Ghosts of Manhattan.
“But her father, an Episcopalian, forbade her to marry Walton because he was Catholic, Irish, and poor.”
Perhaps Getrude never found love again. Or maybe she did it to spurn her father, who died in 1865. But Gertrude never married.
Along with her mother, four spinster sisters, and a bachelor brother, Gertrude continued to live in the house.
“They barricaded themselves there against a city creeping uptown like a tide,” wrote The New York Times in 1951.
One by one her mother and siblings passed on. By 1909, she was 69 years old and alone. ”The blinds were kept closed in the drawing room; the dining room was never used; and the dust of years accumulated,” the Times wrote in 1936.
“By then, she was considered an eccentric recluse whose only interest seemed to be keeping the house exactly how it was when her father died,” wrote Cheri Farnsworth in The Big Book of New York Ghost Stories.
With the house in pristine 19th century condition, it became the Merchant House Museum, a fascinating place taking visitors back to New York in the 1840s.
Perhaps she is reluctant to leave the house where she grew up, fell in love, and had her heart broken.
[Above: six of the Tredwell children as adults; right, Gertrude in her older years]