9. It Inspired an Academy Award-Winning Film

When actors Jessica Chastain and Dan Stevens were preparing to star in a Broadway revival of “The Heiress,” a 1947 play based on the novel “Washington Square” by Henry James, the pair made a stop at the Merchant’s House Museum for a tour. The play, which was also turned into an Academy Award-winning 1949 film starring Olivia De Haviland and Montgomery Clift, is set in 19th-century New York City, so there was no better place to visit to get a feel for the time.

The grand staircase at the Merchant’s House was recreated for the set of the 1949 film, which went on to win Oscars for costume and set design in 1950. The story within the film, play, and novel, though not based on Gertrude Tredwell’s life, bears a striking resemblance to it. The story centers around Catherine Sloper and her love for Morris Townsend, a man whom her father forbids her from marrying. Gertrude, like Catherine, also loved a man who her father disapproved of and both the protagonist and real-life 19th-century woman went through their lives unmarried.