West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 22 | Oct. 31 - Nov. 06, 2007

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

A woman re-enacted Eliza Treadwell watching the final moments of life of her husband, Seabury Treadwell, at the Merchant’s House Museum.

Dying to tell Treadwell tale at Merchant’s House

By Jefferson Siegel

As Halloween approaches, hauntings, costumes and parades usually supplant the common ghost story. At the East Village’s Merchant’s House Museum, a candlelight tour gave visitors chills and maybe even a ghost sighting.

The unique theater-style production, “Mourning Becomes Eliza,” re-created a day from the 19th century. Four rooms of the 175-year-old house were the stages for the day the building’s former owner, Seabury Treadwell, died.

Dressed in period costumes, actors staged the final minutes of Treadwell’s life, complete with the emotional trauma his wife, Eliza, and daughter, Gertrude, endured in the following days.

Visitors to the museum at 29 E. Fourth St. experienced the entire 50-minute production by walking through four rooms illuminated only by flickering candles. The production was as close to time travel as one can imagine, as visitors stood in the main bedroom watching a doctor and Eliza witness the death of her husband.

Other set pieces included Eliza’s grief in her own room, daughter Gertrude talking to her father’s coffin on the parlor floor and a maid working in the kitchen.

All the rooms are historically accurate representations of the 1830s. And, if visitors feel an unusual chill or an unexpected poke, it may be one of several spirits that are believed to inhabit the house.

“Mourning Becomes Eliza” was presented for five nights only between Oct. 25 and Oct. 30, every half-hour between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Reservations were required. On the afternoon of Oct. 28, the carrying of Seabury Treadwell’s coffin to the Marble Cemetery on E. Second St. was re-enacted.

Other exhibitions and events are planned throughout October. On Halloween, the Merchant’s House Museum will be open to the public for free from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.merchantshouse.org.


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