Thursday, April 30, 2009

Other Museums - 19 Princelet Street

This week, we're taking a look at immigration museums off the beaten path. Today, our membership coordinator and resident museum expert Pamela Mattera guest blogs.

Waves of immigrants passed through 97 Orchard Street and the Lower East Side before moving on to destinations like Brooklyn, Queens and the Upper East Side. 19 Princelet Street, a Georgian home in the Spitalfields section of East London, served as a similar gateway for immigrants to the Big Smoke (aka London). Built in 1719, 19 Princelet Street was home to the Ogiers, a Huguenot family escaping religious persecution in France. The Ogier family entered the silk weaving industry, which became a major industry in East London. Most Huguenot immigrants moved on and were followed by the arrival of Irish immigrants and later, Eastern European Jews. By the late nineteenth century, 19 Princelet Street housed a synagogue and served as a community center (where strategies to combat intolerance and fascism would be discussed years later). Today, the neighborhood is home to a vibrant Bangladeshi community. 19 Princelet Street, however, is now in great disrepair, and is thus only open to the public a handful of times each year. A local charity and volunteers manage the site’s preservation and plan to create a London immigration museum.

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