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Chronicles: One if by Land, Two if by Sea

It is quite a feat to at once be called New York’s most romantic restaurant by New York Magazine while simultaneously being deemed by the same magazine as the city’s most haunted. And yet, One if by Land, Two if by Sea, once the carriage house of Aaron Burr, the same who killed Alexander Hamilton in their famous duel, does so gracefully, serving classic and much lauded meals while spirits float up and down their stairs.

Theodosia Burr Alston, 1802 by John Vanderlyn

Theodosia Burr Alston, 1802 by John Vanderlyn

With a tale as dramatic and mysterious as the one associated with the ghost of One if by Land, Two if by Sea, it is no wonder that stories of its haunting has persisted for so long. On December 31st. 1812, Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia left her home and husband, the wealthy Governor Joseph Alston, in South Carolina to visit her father in New York. In early January, her ship was held by a British fleet, whom at the time were at war with America, but let go. However, Theodosia never made it to New York. It is said that after being released by the British, her ship was taken prisoner by pirates who stole the ships valuables and sank the vessel. This would be the last anyone ever heard from poor Theodosia until in 1869, a mentally ill woman in the care of a fisherman and his wife in North Carolina, whom they said washed ashore years before, became sick. Calling the doctor, payment had to be made in exchange for goods. The doctor chose a portrait on the wall, the same portrait which washed-up with the woman. Seeing the painting being taken from the wall, Theodosia yelled “”It is mine! You shall not have it! I am on my way to visit my father in New York, and I am taking this picture of his darling Theodosia!” and ran into the sea.
Though much of this story is hearsay, what is fact is that the doctor did acquire the painting, whose descendent sold it to an art dealer who in turn sold it to the Burr Family, in whose custody it resides today. It is the ghost of Theodosia who patrons at One if by Land, Two if by Sea say haunts the building, removing earrings of female diners. Though some say that the female specter is that of Elizabeth, an unknown woman whose tombstone was found in the basement of the restaurant. What is known is that the haunting was enough that one maître d’ quit after he was pushed up and down the stairs each night just one too many times.

One If By Land, Two If By Sea
17 Barrow Street, New York, NY 10014 – (212) 255-8649

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