21 October 2013

97 Orchard Street

The Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side is a favourite place of mine; not only does it appeal to the history geek in me but it’s a great place to take out-of-town visitors. The one downside is that photography is not allowed. So when I heard about “Snapshot,” a one-night event during which people would be allowed to shoot anywhere in the building, I jumped at the chance.

The museum is centered around a former tenement at 97 Orchard Street. Built in 1863, it originally consisted of 22 flats and a basement-level German beer saloon. Roughly 7,000 people would call it home over the years until 1935 when the last residents were evicted and the building boarded up. Purchased in 1996 by the Tenement Museum, the building is used to educate visitors about the immigrant experience in New York.

Normally, visitors to the museum take a tour with a guide who tells the tale of one or two of the families who lived in the building. On this night, although there were staff members on hand, we were able to roam at our own pace. I began in the saloon, which I had toured earlier this year, and worked my way up to each floor. While the rooms were interesting, I was drawn to the layers in the building—paint, flooring, wallpaper that remain as evidence of different decades and times at 97 Orchard Street.

For more info about the Tenement Museum, visit here. All photos by Michele.

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