merchant’s house museum

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The Loner, the Lover, and the Trap Door of the Merchant’s House

This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

The doorway of Seabury Tredwell's house as it appeared in the 1930s (New York Public Library)

The doorway of Seabury Tredwell’s house as it appeared in the 1930s (New York Public Library)

By the time she died in 1984, Helen Worden Erskine had racked up an eclectic but impressive set of interviews. The longtime New York World society writer spoke with Prince Charles of England and presidents Eisenhower and Truman, among other political and cultural luminaries. But she was perhaps most famous for her fascination with the opposite end of society: recluses.

In the late 1930s, Erskine wrote a series of sensationalistic articles about the Collyer brothers, two wealthy hoarders who had all of Harlem talking. Erskine and other reporters launched their careers writing about the sordid details of the brothers’ lives and death, including the nearly month-long search for one of their bodies in 1947, which was eventually discovered in their home beneath piles of junk.

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Merchant’s House Desperately Needs You to Nominate Its Plaster For an Award

merchanthouse1The Merchant’s House Museum suffered a blow on Tuesday when the Landmarks Preservation Commission finally signed off on the design of a controversial nine-story building that’s due to be erected next to the 182-year-old house. Today the museum sends out an e-mail indicating that it’s still concerned that the new building’s construction could damage the meticulously preserved East Fourth Street residence, and its custodians will soon be taking steps “to secure the necessary legal and engineering protective measures.”
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