Wednesday, 25 February 2009


To experience a taste of tenement living as highlighted by Jacob Riis, visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum at 97, Orchard Street (corner of Delancey Street). The influx of Europeans mid-18th century and the early years of the 19th century are part of the fabric of America, and this museum is a unique place where visitors can see and learn how tens of thousands of immigrants found way into America through New York's Lower East Side.

The museum is an actual tenement apartment building that has been restored to illustrate how tough, working-class immigrants built a new life in a country and the price they paid in terms of living conditions. The building was home to immigrants from 1863, the Civil War Years until 1935. The Tenement Museum staff have restored apartments to the way actual tenants lived in them and have painstakingly pieced together their family details and stories which adds tremendous color and poignancy to the each visitor's experience.

Each apartment comprised a tiny bedroom and living room which was often used for up to 18 hours each day as the tenant's and staff's work premises.

The sewing machine station and work table indicate this apartment served as both home and workplace. The sanitation was the outside/window system until 1901 when one indoor toilet per floor were proscribed by legislation arising from pressure from Jacob Riis and others. Each toilet served up to 3 apartments.

Orchard Street in late 1800's

The Lower East Side was one of the depressed area in the country with an 1890 population density of 37 persons per dwelling - half a million people in a tight corner of Manhattan. If your time in NYC only permits one museum/gallery visit. there is no competition - it has to be The Lower East Side Tenement Museum guided tour.

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