Herman Melville – Moby Dick

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Troy, New York
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top of house - Melville


Herman Melville
Author of  “Moby Dick”
Family home 1838 – 1847
Did his earliest writing and completed his first two books here; “Typee” and “Omoo”


By the State Education Department — 1953

What was there

Built c. 1786, Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, lived in this Dutch-style home with 5 of his 7 siblings and his widowed mother from 1838 – 1847.  They rented the home from a local gunsmith for $125/year and lived here for those 9 years – from the time Herman was 18 until the age of 27, when he marrried Elizabeth Shaw of Boston.  After their honeymoon, they left Lansingburgh.

Although it wasn’t until several years later that he wrote the story of the great white whale, he is said to have gotten the idea for Moby Dick while sitting on his front porch and striking up conversations with and listening to the adventures of sailors who passed through the (then) bustling port of Lansingburgh on the Hudson River.

What is there now

In about 1872, the home underwent substantial remodeling. Among other changes, the front entrance, which originally faced west, overlooking the river, was moved to face north.  In looking at the side view (originally the front view), things make more sense.  The brick rowhouse style of the period becomes resoundingly evident. This home and the one adjacent are 2 of the oldest in Lansingburgh.

It now contains The Lansingburgh Historical Society, museum and private residence. The first and third floors can be visited today and the museum is open to the public most Sundays from 1-3 pm.  Because portions of the home are a private residence, please be mindful of this and courteous while exploring.

Pictured in the attached photo gallery are 2 significant features of the home that remain today.

  •  A fireplace original to the home when it was built in 1786
  • The room known to be where Melville did his writing – with his desk overlooking the Hudson River.  

The home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

overview - Melville

More information

  • Herman Melville was born August 1, 1819 in New York City and died of a heart attack on September 28, 1891 at the age of 72 in New York City.
  • Unlike many of his contemporaries, Melville’s success, in terms of  his “celebrity” status and copies sold during his lifetime, peaked with his first full length work – Typee – which was written whilst living in this house.
  • Melville’s Literary Earnings – table
  • Melville’s Obituary notices
  • Wikipedia entry on Melville
  • National Register of Historic application – filled with specific information about the structure and Melville himself
  • Born Herman Melvill – his mother added the “e” to the end of their name after her husband’s death.
  • Moby Dick, one of the most famous novels of all time, was actually a dud when it was first published.
  • Lansingburgh Historical Society
  • The United States Postal Service honored Melville with this commemorative stamp issued on August 1, 1984.

US Postage Stamp - Melville

Submitted by

We would like to thank the following for helping us with this entry:

  • Kelly Lucero – research and photography
  • Mary Ellen Kelleher – hospitality, anecdotes and historical information


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