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JOEL Joel's Blog

The Old Merchant's House


The Old Merchant's House 4Most of the time when we see old furniture it's out of context. It's in a museum, on display, but not in any sense in situ. The exception of course is historic houses. Of course, even in that case, there is a goodly chance of the furnishing being a reconstruction of the original, rather than the original thing.

The Old Merchant's House, on 4th street between the Bowery and Lafyette was build in 1832. Seabury Tredwell, bought the house in 1835 and after his last daughter died in the 1930's the house became a museum. Aside from some odds and ends work the family never redecorated, or threw anything out. Consequently what you see is a coherent picture of the living quarters of an upper middle class family, their servants and the furniture they used on a daily basis in the mid-19th century. In context.

While the furniture itself is very interesting, the most important thing I learned on my recent visit was how the role of furniture and entertaining has changed over the last 170 years. These folks had a fancy parlor with an early pianoforte ready for frequent entertaining. And of course they had a card table. In the US today, due to long hours and television, adults socialize far, far less than ever before. So places in the home meant for social events have been replaced by big televisions, and eating out.
Young people socialize by going out in groups. I don't think Facebook is the same thing and chatting face to face. I used to have a poker game with friends every couple of weeks. I miss that. It was fun.

One reason for joining your local woodworking club or attending gallery and woodworking events and classes in your neighborhood is the social element. And it should not be underestimated. I still have the friends I made in woodworking class and so many people I know get real enjoyment from the people they meet at through their local club.

So visit The Old Merchant's House with some friends. Heck, make a day of it. Bring the whole family, and split up if you need to. Have lunch in the area - Katz's isn't too far away but you are in the downtown on the Bowery and if you can't find something to eat that everyone likes you have larger issues than we have room to discuss here. A walk in the area will reveal lots of buildings from the 19th century in various states of modification, not to mention new stuff of every ilk.

Old Merchant's HouseAn important issue that the Old Merchant's House faces today is in danger of destruction. Next door a tall apartment building has received building department approval and engineering studies have determined that in the process of drilling for the foundation for the new building the chance of the Tredwell house foundation being shifted is very very high. Reports say that even a quarter of an inch shift will crack the original, fantastic, decorative plaster found throughout the house. Permanently damaging the building and doing incalculable historic damage.
Join the conversation
04/20/2016 Dan
Thanks, and keep up the great work.
Keep smiling,
04/22/2016 Rick Nofsinger
Thanks Joel for a great article on the importance of getting together face to face with family and friends and doing things together.
I belong to a wood carving club that meets on Monday mornings in a Senior Center. I can't wait to get there and to carve and be with my friends and spend two hours talking about anything and everything. Some things you just can't do on Facebook or social media.
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The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.