Thursday, April 30, 2009
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.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Bremerhaven, a small port city in northern Germany, is the exact inverse of New York: it's where millions (7.2 to be exact) set sail for Ellis Island over a century ago, when a population boom and rocky transition from agriculture to industry rendered jobs and land scarce. So rather than documenting immigrant life, the Emigration Musem recreates conditions on a departing steamship and in the waiting areas where family members said their goodbyes. The museum has some quirky touches: lifesize mannequins dressed in 19th century garb are stationed in the main building, which fittingly evokes a boat, and in addition to learning about the lives of millions of emigrants and their descendants (chances are, some of them wound up near 97 Orchard), visitors can trace their own family history using an extensive database. Click here for a more detailed overview.
Few historic buildings remain in one of Germany's most important port cities
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
Immigrant families in New York visited the Jacob Riis Neighborhood Settlement House for programs like sewing classes and health care. Working class newcomers to Chicago turned to the Hull House for social enrichment. Founded by Jane Addams in 1889, Chicago's first settlement house offered free concerts, art galleries, lectures, daycare, and English classes. Rather than housing immigrants themselves, settlements were populated by middle classs volunteers (often women) wishing to living among and assist the poor. The Hull House was located in Chicago's Near West Side, a vibrant melting-pot community of Jews, Italians, Germans, and Greeks. Today, it's a museum run by the University of Illinois Chicago with a collection of 0ver 1,000 artifacts and 100 oral histories documenting life in the neighborhood.
Children gather in the Hull House complex, which grew to 13 buildings by the early 20th century, and included a summer camp.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
When Carmen Artache and her husband, Balmes Rosa, bought a 200-year-old house in Bloomville, N.Y., in the Catskills, they set about erasing the many renovations of previous owners. In the process of revealing the original structure, they discovered a closet hidden behind a wall, and a cache of old papers inside.
The papers, more than 200 letters, notices, articles and other documents, belonged to S. B. Champion, the founder and editor of The Bloomville Mirror, a weekly newspaper published from 1851 to 1871. Almost all the documents, which were in a canvas bag, were from the Civil War years, and included everything from a local boy’s Army enlistment paper (Champion notarized it), to a love poem written by a soldier to his Mary back home. Read more.
Entryway staircase in 1988, and about 20 years later, with much more wear
At first, we weren't sure what was causing 97 Orchard's hallway staircase to show visible signs of wear: visitors' toes striking the risers on the way up, or their heels bumping against them on the way down. Turns out it was the latter. To prevent further damage, we hired a local construction company to repair the risers and treads. In January 2006, after studying how the staircase was originally constructed (it was made of douglas fir and fitted with dados, or grooves, among a number of other features), the contractors went to work sealing cracks, adding wedges and strips of wood to help stabilize the structure, and installing wooden screws to anchor it to the wall. All of this helped preserve the historic fabric of the staircase without changing its appearance. Only the handrail, made of either mahogany or walnut, required no repair.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Check out this NPR report on a creative new method for warning Cambodian villagers about the bacteria, parasites, and chemicals tainting their water supply: karaoke videos.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
A visitor once asked about the meaning of the following insult scrawled in pencil on the hallway wall outside the Levine apartment. Whether or not graffiti counts as an artifact, we thought this was too amusing not to mention.
Here's what Curitorial Director Dave had to say:
In 1940, the linguist Thomas Pyles wrote that usage of the word “nuts” had become an acknowledged and widely used “exclamation of disgust or disparagement,” especially when incorporated in the phrase “nuts to you.”
Likely written during the early twentieth century, the expression “nuts to you,” as it appears on the hallway wall outside the recreated Levine apartment, appears to have emerged as a socially-acceptable version of the more taboo but equivalent British phrase “balls to you.” Indeed, Pyle noted that, while using “balls” was considered “distinctly ‘low’ on either side of the Atlantic… the American coed, or even her maiden Aunt, may unblushingly hiss, ‘Nuts to you!’” Cheeky!
For the first 42 years of the building’s existence, the rear yard was where residents of 97 Orchard Street‘s twenty apartments used toilets in outhouses and retrieved water from a hydrant. In its purest form, the rear yard served as an extension of the tenement household, providing access to essential water for cooking, cleaning, and bathing; a space to wash laundry; and a facility for the disposal of human waste. Yet, when indoor toilets, or water closets, were added to 97 Orchard in 1905, it did not spell the end of the building’s rear yard.
According to Irving Cohen the wooden outhouse structure or shed may have been present in the rear yard long after 1905. Born in 1913, Cohen, whose grandmother Fanny Rogarshevsky (pictured on the left) served as the building’s janitress from 1918 - 1941, remembers that, when visiting his grandmother as a young child, she would yell at the “bummers” who snuck into the outhouses to sleep to “come away.”
A Place to Socialize
In addition to being the site of the building’s outdoor toilets, 97 Orchard Street’s rear yard played an important role in residents' everyday lives. Before water was brought into the building sometime between 1895 and 1905, female tenents typically washed laundry in wooden tubs outside by the water hydrant in order to save the labor of hauling it up or down dark tenement stairways. Serving simultaneously as a social space, the rear yard was a place where the diverse women of 97 Orchard often met and interacted with each other. Once women had access to water in their apartments, and no longer needed to do laundry in the rear yard, opportunities to socialize decreased.
The rear yard also served as a gathering place for children. With few parks and playgrounds in Lower Manhattan, young tenents frequently found a place to play under clotheslines strung up by their mothers. When nearby Seward Park was completed in 1903, however, many of the neighborhood’s children used its state-of-the art playground facilities for recreation.
The Reconstruction Process
With a wooden privy shed and water hydrant, the recreated rear yard will look as it might have shortly after 97 Orchard was constructed in 1863. We're covering the floor with paving stones, and enclosing the area with a wood-plank fence. Clothes will be hung on lines above the yard, and a wooden wash tub and water buckets will sit on the ground near the hydrant. Visiters will be able to explore the space on their own, after browsing the Schneider’s Saloon exhibit or as part of a tenement tour.
Weaving the stories of 97 Orchard Street’s former residents throughout, the exhibit will cover the history of the building’s rear yard from a number of angles, such as public health, gender roles, the experiences of immigrant children, and notions of privacy. In keeping with the museum's interpretive approach, the exhibit will communicate the process of researching and recreating the rear yard.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
This 1917 pin urging citizens to "get behind the government" is a lot less subtle than modern propaganda. But then again, the push to popularize war bonds during World War I was one of the White House's largest mass persuasion campaigns. (And one of the most successful - the government raised $17 billion.) Celebrities like Charlie Chaplin and Al Jolson were called on to design posters and stage rallies, and Boy and Girl Scouts sold bonds in their communities. Clearly, someone living in 97 Orchard got caught up in all the fervor. We found this pin in on the fifth floor of the building, in the floorboards outside Apartment # 16. It wasn't until the 9/11 attacks that the government started issuing liberty bonds again, in order to revitalize the Financial District. This time, it didn't hand out pins and posters on the streets.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
At the end of the night, Stephen shared one of Tenement Talks Director Amanda's favorite poems by the founder of the Nuyorican Poets Café.
And in case you've gotten too nostalgic about the New York of bygone eras, we thought we'd wrap up our poetry series with a piece by a contemporary author. This excerpt from Kevin Coval's Lured Beneath Your Golden, Calling Lights captures the city's frenetic and ever-changing nature, while showing that some things (like New York's role as a melting pot) have stayed the same.
The all night diner
Where you ordered rice pudding
In Union Square, is a Sports Club
For people who can afford one.
You have changed,
Always been changing.
Damn! You look good,
You court me,
(again?, new york)
At 3rd and Mercer
We felt like tea, and I knew you
Would suggest Café Reggio,
Though I had not been there
Since ’94 and couldn’t remember
Its location or name but felt its windows
Would open to the street and be perfect
After-dinner in spring, sitting
In metal-wire chairs, blackberry supreme
Pot steeping on the two-top wooden table,
I knew I could love you again, (though I know you are not
Mine alone & chicago would not want to hear this, but…)
Your civilized all-hour tomatoes!
Your fresh flower fields littering the fronts of bodegas!
Your subway lines: vast and democratic!
Your bootlegs sleeping on blankets like dominoes!
Your two model per train car city ordinance!
All those mixed babies blurring neighborhood lines!
Your gold space pharaohs slanging veg patties on 125th St.!
Your corner kids up late blaring Biggie out 6th floor apartment
My grandfather’s anglicized name tucked in a book on your
Your Grandmaster Flash mash-ups! Your Grandwizrad Theodore
Your afro-diasporic puerto rican borough global exports!
Your shtick, new york, each one of you sounds like a jew
And even italians know how to make good bagels!
You are the ultimate reality / check! The last bastion
Of schmer and empire. The american ideal gone
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
By Allen Ginsberg (1926 - 1997)
Monday, April 6, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
By Alfred Corn (1943 - )
They stare back into an increate future,
Dead stars, burning still. Air how choked with soot
One breathed then, the smudged grays and blacks impressed
In circles around East European eyes,
Top hats, a brougham, the laundry that hung
Like crowds of ghosts over common courtyards.
Dignity still knew how to thrust its hand
Into a waistcoat, bread plaited into shapes
How to dress a window, light under the El
Fall as negative to cast-iron shadows.
Assemble Liberty plate by plate - so
This giant dismembered arm still emerges
From folds of bronze and floats over the heads
Of bearded workmen riveted in place
By an explosion of magnetism they've learned
To endure. Then, Union. Rally. March. Strike.
And still the wretched refugees swarming
Out from Ellis Island, the glittering door,
To prosper or perish. Or both...The men
Don't see the women; or see how deftly hems
Can be lifted at curbs - well, any eye would
Be caught by that tilt of hat, profile, bearing.
Others strive to have mattered, too, stolid
Forms that blush and crouch over sewing machines,
Haunt the libraries, speak on platforms.
Did they? And did this woman, who clearly still
Speaks no English, her head scarf, say, Russian?
A son stands at her side, crop-haired, in clumpy
Shoes. She stares straight forward, reserved, aware,
Embattled. The deep-set eyes say something
About the emptiness of most wishes; and
About her hopes. She knows the odds are poor.
Or, the odds are zero, counted from here.
That past survives its population
And is unkind. Triumph no more than failure
In the longest run ever fails to fail.
Is that the argument against shuffling,
Dealing, and reshuffling these photographs?
They are not mementos of death alone,
But of life lived variously, avatars
Energy, insight, cruelty took - and love.
Variousness: the great kaleidoscope
Of time, its snowflake pictures, form after
Form, collapsing into the future, hours,
Days, seasons, generations that rise up
And fall like leaves, each one a hand inscribed
With fragile calligraphy of selfhood;
The human fate given a human face.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
By Frank O'Hara (1926 - 1966)
It's my lunch hour, so I go
for a walk among the hum-colored cabs. First, down the sidewalk
where laborers feed their dirty
glistening torsos sandwiches
and Coca-Cola, with yellow helmets
on. They protect them from falling
bricks, I guess. Then onto the
avenue where skirts are flapping
above heels and blow up over
grates. The sun is hot, but the
cabs stir up the air. I look
at bargains in wristwatches. There
are cats playing in sawdust.
to Times Square, where the sign
blows smoke over my head, and higher
the waterfall pours lightly. A
Negro stands in a doorway with a toothpick, langorously agitating.
A blonde chorus girls clicks he
smiles and rubs his chin. Everthing
suddenly honks: it is 12:40 of
Neon in daylight is a
great pleasure, as Edwin Denby would
write, as are light bulbs in daylight.
I stop for a cheeseburger at JULIET'S
CORNER. Giulietta Masina, wife of
Federico Fellini, e bell' attrice.
And chocolate malted. A lady in
foxes on such a day puts her poodle
in a cab.
There are several Puerto
Ricans on the avenue today, which
makes it beautiful and warm. First
Bunny died, then John Latouche,
then Jackson Pollack. But is the
earth as full as life was full, of them?
And one has eaten, and one walks,
past the magazines and nudes
and the posters for BULLFIGHT and
the Manhattan Storage Warehouse.
which they'll soon tear down. I
used to think they had the Armory
A glass of papaya juice
and back to work. My heart is in my
pocket, it is Poems of Pierre Reverdy.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
To celebrate here at the Museum, next Tuesday's Tenement Talk will feature readings from Stephen Wolf's I Speak of the City, a collection of odes to the Big Apple by Allen Ginsberg, Frank O'Hara, and over a hundred others.
This week we'll post some of our favorite pieces from Wolf's anothology, starting with a poem by William Carlos Williams (1883 - 1963), a pediatrician who penned poems between appointments in his Hell's Kitchen office (hey, note that alliteration! looks like we're poets, too). It's one of the shortest in the book and inspired a Charles Demuth painting on display at the Met.
The Great Figure
Among the rain
I saw the figure 5
on a red
to gong clangs
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.
"I saw the figure five in gold" by Charles Deluth