About Lower East Side Tenement Museum
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York tells the story of two buildings on Orchard Street and the over 15,000 immigrants who lived there between 1863 and 2011.
Various themed tours are offered, allowing visitors to understand the experiences of the working class individuals and families who immigrated to America at these times and resided at 97 and 103 Orchard Street.
Neighbourhood walking tours are also available, looking at the history of the Lower East Side.
History of Lower East Side Tenement Museum
The museum is located at 97 and 103 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side neighbourhood of Manhattan, New York City. The museum and visitors’ centre offer a historical perspective on the immigrant experience, with a strong ethos that promotes tolerance and learning from the past.
The heart of the museum is a historic tenement, which was home to an estimated 7,000 people from over 20 nations between 1863 and 1935. It was contracted by Prussian-born immigrant Lukas Glockner in 1863, and was modified several times to conform to the city’s developing housing laws.
When it was first constructed, it contained 22 apartments and a basement-level saloon. It was modified over successive years, with indoor plumbing, an air shaft, and gas and electricity being added.
In 1935, the landlord evicted the residents, and sealed the upper floors, leaving only stoop-level basements and shop storefronts open for business. Until the museum became involved in 1988, no changes were made to the building. As a result, the building is a time capsule, reflecting 19th and early 20th century living conditions – which made it ideal to become a kind of of ‘living’ museum.
The museum was founded in 1988 by Ruth J. Abram and Anita Jacobson. 97 Orchard Street was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum Today
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum runs a number of exhibits and programs, including restored apartments and shops which are open for daily public tours.
The museum also uses documentary film and costumed actors to imaginatively recrate the lives of the residents, with tastings of community foods and neighbourhood walks being typical of the immersive experience that visitors can enjoy.
Getting to Lower East Side Tenement Museum
The museum is reachable in around 12 minutes by car from the centre of New York, primarily along FDR Dr. There’s also a frequent bus schedule – the M15 – that leaves every 10 minutes from the centre, and takes around 6 minutes. It’s also a 25 minute walk via Centre St and Grand St.