For over ten years Kate McCoy introduced the Merchant’s House to hundreds of visitors. They may not remember her name, but I know they have a positive memory of the Merchant’s House because of Kate’s friendly enthusiasm. I have no doubt that they gained a clearer understanding of the 19th century because of Kate’s ability to communicate what she knew.
And she knew a lot. She was, after all, a scholar, and she made the Merchants House and 19th century New York City the subject of her scholarly study. She was also an experienced teacher, which no doubt accounted for her ability to communicate so well.
But more than that, she loved what she did and did it with great good cheer. She always had a smile and was quick to laugh at a joke.
I will always remember Kate as one of the most confident, honest, and straightforward persons I’ve known. There was not a hint of pretension about Kate.
The last time I saw her at the House, we shared a bench in the basement as we waited for visitors. When a young man had a question about the call bells and the wires that connected them—about what pulled which and where the wires disappeared to—Kate rose to the occasion and together they tromped around the kitchen, the hall, the family room, and back again, having a lively exchange, trying to figure it out together. Like so many others she guided through the House, I know he remembers her well.
I’m personally grateful to Kate for reading an early draft of my book. She made some very helpful suggestions (which I followed), but like the good teacher she was, she avoided discouraging me at that early stage by not picking at the little things she knew I would eventually discover for myself.
Some of her close personal friends at the Merchant’s House together with a group of her docent friends at Gracie Mansion, which was also lucky to have Kate as a volunteer, have arranged for a planting of Heritage roses in the garden, a remembrance that will grow more beautiful each year. Contributions to the Merchant’s House, a place dear to her heart, can also be made in her memory.