A heartbroken spirit haunts an East Village home


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.

TredwellchildrenAs the years went on, East Fourth Street became a grittier industrial enclave. The Tredwells were seen taking carriage rides but kept to themselves.

“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.

GertrudetredwellagedShe died in 1933 in the same four-poster bed she was born in.

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.

And Gertrude? Over the decades, she’s been seen in the kitchen, spotted gliding up and down the stairs, playing the piano, and arranging teacups.

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]

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22 Responses to “A heartbroken spirit haunts an East Village home”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    There used to be an old tenement right next door and it was so quiet there I used to go there with my girlfriend and we used to make out and smooch for hours. They torn my lover’s nest down and little did I know the old historic building had an old unrequited lover in its realm. Sad but I had good times there, just right next door.

  2. carolegill Says:

    What a sad and haunting story.
    Really moving. I know I’m going to keep thinking about it.

  3. Annie Haddad Says:

    A must-see if you are interested in life in 19th century New York. Remarkably intact – Gertrude kept everything! Haunted, however? I wouldn’t want to find out!

    • carolegill Says:

      Annie, does anyone live there now? I’d like to find out if it’s haunted!
      I write though, so a bit nuts anyway. There must be many people who live there unless it’s a museum of some sort, right?

  4. Annie Haddad Says:

    No, it is a museum. Click on the link above to learn more…

  5. carolegill Says:

    Reblogged this on carolegill and commented:
    absolutely fascinating post.

  6. Les Says:

    So none of the five children married? That’s odd, isn’t it?

    • carolegill Says:

      Les, i think it’s not unusual because of the rigid upbringing by the father.
      it must have been awful. Some might have had a life if they had been a bit rebellious, but others not.
      So sad, pity for them.

  7. The Greenockian Says:

    What a fabulous story. Glad it has been kept as a museum.
    The Greenockian

  8. Annie Haddad Says:

    Three of the eight children married: two daughters and one son. One of the unmarried daughters, Sarah, moved to a residential hotel for a time, but then returned to her parents’ home. The museum website includes details about the family’s history.

  9. SRF Says:

    Thank you for this. You’ve inspired me to finally go see that museum.

  10. billybeyond Says:

    Reblogged this on billy beyond's blog and commented:

  11. Joseph Ciolino Says:

    Like a source on the statement that Gertrude’s father prevented her from marrying the man she loved. As a visitor the the House countless times over the years, I was told that it’s just not true. Gertrude loved her father and kept the house specifically they way “he would have wanted it,” according to her words.

    Not as “romantic” a story as we like to tell today, and we just LOVE when women are victims, especially of overbearing fathers, but really, must we color everything out of the past with our own myopic vision of what reality must be? She didn’t marry. She was a spinster, therefore, she MUST have been a miserable victim.

    Please. Grow up.

    • carolegill Says:

      Interesting. I am certain you are right, and I say that as a writer who loves to make up stories. Sounds very logical actually.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      The source is right there. The nice folks at the Merchants House are probably just messing with you, hoping you’ll stop visiting the museum and annoying everybody.

      • carolegill Says:

        goodness! i felt, it might be right because the poor daughter was so dominated. but that might not be the case at all. Thanks Ephemeral.

    • little abe relis Says:

      little Abe Relis here –
      listen. you mugs gotta be nice to joey c. Beings a little person myself I know wheres hes commin from. I almost didnt like girls neither. Cause of my size most of em didnt like me. Thats probably whats a matter with joey c. I betcha hes a little guy too and the girls just aint goin for him sos hes mad. he just got some resentaments. its from being all backed up with the love juice. Sos you gota have hart for joeyc. being a little man is tough goin sometimes.

  12. This might be the spookiest house in Soho | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] similar yet beautifully restored Merchant’s House Museum, across Broadway on East Fourth Street, is a Federal-style house that can give an idea of what the […]

  13. CarolMaeWY Says:

    Reblogged this on Home Sweet Home WY and commented:
    An October read. . .

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