Melville's mother moved the family to the house following the death of his father. His father's death left the family in grim financial circumstances and during their time in Troy, the family was essentially impoverished. In spite of the family's financial struggles, the home's location overlooking the Hudson River inspired the young Melville and triggered his interest in sailing.
Many of the friends and acquaintances Melville knew in Troy were sailors and fisherman, and the young man was undoubtedly influenced by their stories. According to stories told about Melville's youth, he would sit on his porch overlooking the river and talk to sailors and fishermen as they passed along the street. Reportedly, it was one of those passing sailors who told Melville of a great white whale. Melville left New York for Liverpool at the age of nineteen and spent a number of years on the sea.
The Melville House is maintained by the Lansingburgh Historical Society and is open to the public. The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.