According to the New York Times, today's economic climate is forcing some New York landlords to offer incentives like a month of free rent - a tradition the tenants of 97 Orchard Street would have been familiar with.
For much of the 19th century, May 1st was moving day for thousands of New Yorkers. Yearly leases expired on May 1, sending tenants all over the city in search of cheaper rents and more commodious dwellings. Business came to a halt as legions of New Yorkers emptied into the streets with carts jammed full of their worldly possessions. In what contemporary observers remarked was an unrivaled scene of chaos and disorder, liquor flowed freely, streets and sidewalks became impassible, and tensions rose to the point of an occasional brawl.
As an incentive, many landlords offered the first month free of charge. But the annual practice of moving on May 1st also allowed landlords to set rents at whatever price the market could bear.
New York's immigrant residents likewise took the opportunity May 1st offered to look for better accommodations.
When the Irish immigrant Moore family moved into 97 Orchard Street in 1869, it was their third home in four years. But they weren't there for long; the Moores were on the move again in 1870, this time to 224 Elizabeth Street.