Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tea Cart Stories

Last Thursday, artist Michele Brody took to the streets with her tea cart. After being rained out the past two Thursdays, we were really excited to finally start on this public art project.

Michele invited passerby into her cart, made of copper pipes and the Museum's early 20th century pushcart. There they shared a cup of tea and talked about their family stories and connection to the ancient beverage. Michele recorded the stories and plans to transcribe them on the tea bags used to steep tea during their conversations.

You can see some of the stories have already been transcribed and are hanging on the cart. Eventually the entire structure will be covered with fluttering sheets. After July, these papers will hang in the windows of the Tenement Museum for all to read and enjoy.

Come out next Thursday, July 9, or Thursday, July 23 to share your story. Michele will be outside during tea time, 4-7 pm.

All photos by Patricia Tscharskyj.

- Posted by Kate Stober

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ghosts of the Past

Check out these amazing photographs on the International Center of Photography's blog, Fans in a Flashbulb. They're autochromes, one of the earliest forms of color photography.

I adore this one of an unidentified woman in a hat, circa 1910. Most historic images are in black and white - sepia if we're lucky. I never think of the past in color. Seeing it this way reenforces the truth that people in old photographs were as real as we are... their New York actually existed once upon a time, and it was full of vibrant blues, greens, yellows, and reds.

Imagine if Jacob Riis or Lewis Hine's powerful portraits of immigrants and working-class people were in color... would we see them differently?


John B. Trevor, Unidentified woman (possible Emily Trevor, the photographer’s wife), ca. 1910. Collection of International Center of Photography.

- Posted by Kate Stober

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summertime in Coney Island

A hot day at Coney Island. Undated photo. C. Library of Congress.

Coney Island provided a welcome diversion for working-class people in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While the streets of Brooklyn or the Lower East Side might be crowded and hot, the beach offered summer breezes and a break from long hours in factories or shops.

For young folks, Coney Island and its amusement parks were also miles away from parents, neighbors, and bosses. Single women and men could enjoy the open-pavilion dance halls, disorient themselves on the rides at Steeplechase Park, or bathe together in the ocean. At Luna Park, visitors (many of them tenement dwellers) could even watch the drama unfold at a staged tenement house fire.

According to the 1901 New York Tribune, by 1900 Coney Island's weekend and holiday visitors numbered 300,000 to 500,000.

Read more at the Coney Island History Site - http://www.westland.net/coneyisland/

Coney Island History Project - http://www.coneyislandhistory.org/

Read about Coney Island excursions in Kathy Peiss's Cheap Amusements:

Underwood & Underwood, 1903. C. Library of Congress

The beach was a tourist destination that some people visited only virtually, through stereoscopic images, one of the most popular forms of contemporary visual media.

Coney Island bathers, 1926. C. Library of Congress.

The crowds at the beach were legendary by the 1920s.

Coney Island, The Chutes, 1900. C. A. Loeffler, Library of Congress.
Visitors to Coney could also enjoy a variety of rides at the amuseument parks lining the beach. The Chutes looks a lot like the "log plume" many of us might remember from our own trips to beach boardwalks and amusement parks.

Coney Island, 1898. C. The Strobridge Lithograph Company, Library of Congress

Some of the rides are visible along the waterfront in this print. Lucy the Elephant was one of the most famous. This drawing also satarizes Coney's crazy, anything-goes reputation.

The Destruction of Dreamland
Destruction of Dreamland, Charles E. Stacy; June 8, 1911; C. Library of Congress.
Dreamland burnt to the ground in 1911. Crowds continued to visit Luna Park well into the 1920s, but as Kathy Peiss remarks, "in many ways, Luna [and perhaps Dreamland as well] emerged at the end, not the beginning, of an era. Its scenic railways and re-enctments of current events were the culmination of Victorian ways of seeing and experiencing." It finally closed in the 1940s. Stepplechase, with its titilating attractions and voyeurism, must have felt a bit more 20th century - that park remained popular for decades longer.
- Posted by Kate Stober

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tonight's Lower East Side Stories - Tourists in New York

You used to be able to spot them in midtown and Central Park by their maps and I Love New York shirts.

Now, they climb off buses in the West Village to embark on Sex and the City movie tours, explore Brooklyn by bike (check out this cool guide in the Huffington Post), soak in Times Square from lounge chairs in the middle of Broadway, and may even visit later this month, as part of a city campaign to attract gay and lesbian visitors, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

Tourism is getting quirkier than ever -and it's the subject of tonight's installment of Lower East Side Stories. At 6:30 pm in the Museum Shop, acclaimed storytellers James Braly, Peter Aguero, Brad Lawrence and Ophira Eisenberg will share their encounters with (and experiences as) visitors to the Big Apple.

Share your own tourism stories at the event, or here on the blog.

Stereotypical tourists, map in hand, and those going off the beaten path on a bike tour of Brooklyn.

-posted by Liana Grey

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Neighborhood Tea Houses & Cafes

The Lebanon Club -- New York w... Digital ID: 801162. New York Public Library
The Lebanon Club, New York working men's coffee house, 1880. Courtesy NYPL. (Click for larger image.)

Syrian coffee-house. Digital ID: 805490. New York Public Library
Syrian coffee-house, by Jay Hambridge & engraved by Henry Davidson. NYC, August 1901. Courtesy NYPL. (Click for larger image.)

In his 1905 account of social life on the Lower East Side, journalist A.H. Fromenson wrote, "What saloons there are on the East Side do but an impoverished business and are dependent to a large extent upon the chance passerby."

However, he was quick to point out that social life thrived on the East Side--if not in beer saloons, but "coffee saloons." These cafes--totalling close to 300--offered places to discuss socialism, play chess, critique the theater, and listen to music. What united them was their elevation of tea as the social drink.

Tea was sometimes accompanied by lemon, or imbibed while clenching a sugar cube in the teeth. "And where the cigarette smoke is the thickest and the denunciation of the present forms of government loudest, there you find women!" In a neighborhood in which most women and men were crammed into tenements, to social spaces offered by cafes were all the more important.

Cafes also served as box-offices for local theater productions, as this 1899 poster diplays:

Karmen Digital ID: 436943. New York Public Library
Courtesy NYPL. Click for larger image.

Partial translation reads: 'Bizet's world-famous opera will be performed for the first time [in Yiddish] with Miss Guttman as Carmen, Miss E. Siebert as Micaela, Miss Elkas as Frasquita, Mr. Cantari as Escamillo, Mr. Harti as Remendado, Mr. Steinhof as Zuniga, and Mr. M. E. Medvedieff as Don Jose. A special choir of 20 children, together with full chorus, orchestra, scenery, and costumes.

Tickets available at the box office, at Herrick Brothers, at Schinkman's Cafe, 126½ Canal Street, at Schmuckler's Cafe, 167 East Broadway, at Schreiber's Cafe, 256 Grand Street, and at Rosenberg's Sausage Store, 200 Broome Street. Children under five years of age positively not admitted.'

- Posted by Kate Stober, with special thanks to Annie Polland

Immigrants and the New York Public Library

Public Affairs intern and urban history student Penny King guest blogs about the role public libraries play in helping immigrants assimilate while staying connected to their heritage.

Last week, the New York City Council and Mayor Bloomberg voted to restore City funding to keep the New York Public Library open six days a week. I'm thrilled to hear this news, especially because libraries have long served as important public institutions to immigrants. The Ottendorfer Branch library, in the East Village, opened in 1884 when that neighborhood was known as Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany. Reflecting the surrounding community, half of the original 8,000 books were in German.

The NY Public Library's 42nd Street branch, circa 1910 - 1915, courtesy of Detroit Publishing Company

Upwardly mobile immigrants have always sought to expand their knowledge, and their enthusiasm for libraries is great. In 1903, the New York Evening Post reported: “The Jewish child has more than an eagerness for mental food: it is an intellectual mania. He wants to learn everything in the library and everything the libraries know.”

This sentiment was also echoed in immigrant literature. In the short story “How I Found America” (first published in 1920), author Anzia Yezierska depicted an Eastern-European immigrant who dreams of America as a place where “learning flows free.” As the main character made the voyage to America, she imagined what she would find: “I saw before me free schools, free colleges, free libraries, where I could learn and learn and keep on learning…Like a bird in the air, from sky to sky, from star to star, I'd soar and soar.” In the story “Wings,” Yezierska describes the thrill of visiting a library for the first time.

1909 Photograph of immigrant women studying at a night class

Libraries continue to help immigrants maintain a connection with their heritage as well as navigate the process of assimilation to the United States. The Queens Library, with 62 locations in one of the most culturally diverse counties in the nation, offers international language collections, citizenship and ESOL classes, and cultural programs celebrating arts from around the globe. The Queens Library has the highest circulation rate of any public library system in the country.

Libraries are more than just collections of books – they are dynamic and valued public institutions. I applaud the New York City Council and Mayor Bloomberg for their support of the New York Public Library.

Working-Class Housing in Tough Times

Yesterday Brian Lehrer talked with Steven Greenhouse about how the recession is affecting the working poor. More people are "doubling up," sharing apartments with boarders or other families. This was a common practice in New York's poorer neighborhoods in the 19th and 20th centuries, as overcrowding limited the available housing options.

Listen to the segment here:

Greenhouse was a recent guest at Tenement Talks (left, with Labor Commissioner Smith, Andrew Friedman of Make the Road New York, and Jeff Madrick):

- Posted by Kate Stober

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Green Tea in Golden Gate Park

Artist Michele Brody hasn't opened her tea cart exhibit to the public yet - she's been rained out the past two Thursdays - but the project, in which Michele will transcribe visitors' family histories onto tea-stained paper, has already inspired some storytelling on the internet. Kathleen Goldstein writes on our Flickr page:

Although I'm Irish and was brought up on black tea with milk and a little sugar, my favorite tea memory is the first time I visited San Francisco in 1986 with my husband and my two year old son, Joshua. While dad was working Joshua and I went to the Japenese Tea Garden in the Golden Gate Park. In a traditonal tea hut with open sides I had green tea in a small cup while watching fish swim under the hut in the koi pond and my little son was playing with the pigions [sic] who were looking for the crumbs of the left over almond and rice cookies that are served in a small bowl with each tea order. After my visit to the tea garden I never drank black tea again. My favorite tea is sencha tea and Genmai Cha tea.

Above: Transcribed tea stories from a previous exhibit.

posted by Liana Grey

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer in the City - Bronx Tree Museum

For a fun weekend activity (if it ever stops raining), head up to the South Bronx and check out the trees lining the Grand Concourse. 100 of them are linked, as part of a new project by artist Katie Holten, to the stories of well-known Bronx residents and local historians, including Majora Carter of Sustainable South Bronx and architect Daniel Liebeskind. Dial the phone numbers posted near each tree to hear the anecdotes, or listen to a podcast as you stroll the 4.5 mile historic boulevard, built starting in 1889 (and completed 20 years later) to connect the northern reaches of the Bronx to Manhattan, and home to the former Yankee Stadium, an old movie theater, classy Art Deco apartment buildings, and one of Edgar Allen Poe's residences, among other sites compiled by Forgotten NY.

With its open spaces and trees, the Grand Concourse was modeled after the Champs-Elysees in Paris. On the right, a close-up of one of the 11-lane boulevard's Art Deco buildings.

-posted by Liana Grey

Friday, June 19, 2009

Today in History: Statue of Liberty Arrives in NY Harbor

The Statue of Liberty arrived at its permanent home at Bedloe's Island in New York Harbor on June 19, 1885, aboard the French frigate Isere. A gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States, the 151-foot-tall statue was created to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. Designed by sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi and officially titled Liberty Enlightening the World, the Statue of Liberty has symbolized freedom and democracy to the nation and to the world for over 120 years.

Continue reading Library of Congress' "Today in History": http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/today.html

Permalink: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/jun19.html

-Posted by Kate Stober

Summer in the City - East River Park

When office manager Frances Pena was growing up in the 1970s and 80s, East River Park, not far from her apartment on Broome Street, was rundown and filled with vagrants. Once the city began to renew itself, starting when Frances' children were young, the esplanade became a bustling community hangout spot, with Little League tournaments, birthday celebrations, jungle gyms, and grassy picnic and sunbathing grounds.

Frances, who now lives in Queens, used to go running on a track alongside the FDR Drive at 5 am and would often run into familiar faces from the neighborhood. (It's a diverse crowd, with Hispanic and other relatively recent immigrants, as well as old-time European-Americans.)

The place gets so packed on the Fourth of July, Frances says, that people camp out the night before to secure one of several public grills or a spot to set up their own. One year Frances' family got to the park at 3 AM and hung around all day, catching the fireworks over the East River almost 20 hours later.

Left, Fourth of July Fireworks as viewed from East River Park. Right, the park's ballfield.
-posted by Liana Grey

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tonight's Tea Cart Stories: Rained Out

We're sorry to tell you that Tea Cart Stories, our interactive art project, is rained out this evening. Come by next week (provided it doesn't rain again, of course!) from 4-7pm to share your tea stories with artist Michele Brody. In the meantime you can check out images from an ESOL workshop she did back in May, as well as see an image of the tea cart itself.

-posted by Kate Stober

Books You Should Read About the Lower East Side

PR gal Kate manages all the press & communications for the Museum (including this very blog!) but she also has a background in American history. She’s read what feels like half the books in the Tenement Museum Shop, and here are her top five picks.

There are so many ways to learn about the Lower East Side, and of course my top suggestion would be to visit the neighborhood and tour the Tenement Museum. But you can also get a wonderful sense of the area’s history by reading about it. The Tenement Museum Shop carries the best books, both fiction and non-fiction, about New York, our neighborhood, and the immigrant experience.

Here are my top five books to read to better understand the historic immigrant and working-class experience on the Lower East Side.

Call It Sleep, Henry Roth.
I first read this book in a grad school class on the great American novel. That's how good it is. Essentially a fictionalized account of the author’s own experiences growing up in Brownsville, Brooklyn and on Avenue D in the 1910s, Call It Sleep beautifully explores what it’s like to be a child; a Jewish child; an immigrant; and a family.
You can read many important and interesting history books about New York, but this is my top pick for immersing yourself in the experience of living here in the early 20th century. It's also a great read.

While the author focuses on women, she explores New York City in ways that are relevant across gender and cultures. My favorite chapters are about the rise of theaters and movie houses; the culture of Coney Island’s Steeplechase, Luna Park, and Dreamland amusement parks; and the line between respectability and indecency at the city’s many public dance halls.
Cheap Amusements is chock full of primary source data that gives you a sense of how working-class people in the city really lived – and how their incredibly demanding work led to the creation of an entire industry of leisure-time activities.

How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Riis; and Rediscovering Jacob Riis: Exposure Journalism and Photography in Turn-of-the-Century New York, Bonnie Yochelson and Daniel Czitrom.
Many people know of Jacob Riis’ 1890 publication, which was acclaimed during the author’s life and then more or less forgotten until it was republished in 1971. Much of Riis’ language and imagery startles modern readers, and this is a fascinating look into the early Progressive era of the 1880s and 1890s.
We sell the 1971 edition at the Shop, which includes many of the photographic images Riis took around lower Manhattan (none of which, by the way, were originally published in the book).
To get a critical opinion of Riis’ writing and his photographic images, you must read Rediscovering Jacob Riis. This small book, published in 2007 by a historian and an art historian, casts an eye on Riis’ methods, as well as giving all-important context to his work.

This novel, set in 1863, immerses you in the different characters who made up New York in the mid-19th century. There are Tammany Hall bosses, hustlers and working girls, stockbrokers, stage actresses and minstrel performers. Identity issues form a core of this book, as the City itself goes through turbulent changes.
What’s great about Quinn’s story is the fact that so many real people are fictionalized in the book – from composer Stephen Foster to politician Big Tim Sullivan – as well as character ‘types’ who represent a broad spectrum of City life.
You may email the Museum Shop to order any of these books, or click the links to order directly online.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Questions for Curatorial - Pushcart Peddling

You've seen them in SoHo and Union Square - tables stacked with jewelry, scarves, art, or political paraphernalia, a salesperson seated patiently nearby. According to Nightshift NYC, a book about the city's predominantly immigrant night workers, some street vendors set up shop in Union Square as early as 4 or 5 in the morning to stake out a prominent spot. Curatorial Director Dave answers a visitor's question about the 19th century precursor to sidewalk stands (both retail and food-related): the pushcart.

Do we know if pushcart peddlers would keep their carts in “stables?” Was pushcart peddling a good job relative to other immigrant occupations?

Pushcart peddlers would keep their carts in stables. One such stable existed between on Sheriff Street at the turn of the century. In most cases, peddlers did not own their carts, but rented them for about a quarter a day.

In some ways, pushcart peddling was a good job relative to other immigrant occupations but, much like garment work, an incredibly trying and exhausting one as well. Perhaps the greatest attraction of peddling was the idea that a person could be their own boss. As a reflection of European market culture, it also served as an important link to the past and a means of mediating the transition to life in the United States. Otherwise, long hours and low pay were the rewards of the peddler. According to one son of a Lower East Side pushcart peddler, his father would “get up at 5:30, go get his pushcart from the pushcart stable on Sheriff Street, where he rented it for about a quarter a day. Then he’d wheel it over to the wholesaler Attorney Street. Then he’d take it over to the ferry to Greenpoint. He’d make about $2.00 or 2.50 a day, six days…He’d help feed a family of seven on that.”

-posted by Liana Grey

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Opening and Closing - How Business Are Faring on Orchard Street South of Delancey

Historic stores that are shuttering (or about to) and the businesses that are replacing them.

Decades old mom and pop shops are an endangered species in the Lower East Side, but even the high-end boutiques taking them over are struggling to survive. Neighborhood blog Bowery Boogie reports that Shop, a women's clothing store just across from the museum, shuttered less than a year after opening. The recession, coupled with the usual culprit, high rent, are probably to blame. On a more positive note, Orchard Street's restaurants, like Little Giant on the corner of Broome, which is always packed at lunchtime, seem to be thriving. And several of the neighborhood's historic lingerie shops, like A.W. Kaufman's, established in 1924 and run by the same family for three generations, are still open for business.

Owners of a trendy boutique closed their shop at 94 Orchard Street, but still exist online. Photo courtesy of Bowery Boogie.

-posted by Liana Grey

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Story of a Tenant and Her Descendants

Earlier this year, two descendants of a family of 97 Orchard residents met with our curatorial team and shared their mother's childhood story. Jacqueline Burinescu was born in the building in 1919 and lived there until 1928. Her father, a Romanian immigrant, pushed aside dreams of performing Yiddish theater (he was in an acting troupe back home) and ran a clothes cleaning business at 92 Orchard. He died of influenza shortly after the 1918 pandemic, leaving Jacqueline's independent-minded mother, a member of a socialist group active in the woman's suffrage movement, in charge of making ends meet. Jacqueline and her five siblings took on odd jobs to help support the family, including a stint fluffing feathers in a factory. Their mother, an immigrant from Odessa, a seaside province of Ukraine, eventually remarried an Italian-born 97 Orchard resident. Curatorial Director Dave Favaloro and Collections Manager Derya Golpinar plan on visiting Jacqueline at her current home in New Jersey.

Marcia Richter and Judith Lewis graciously donated 40 family photos to the museum, including the snapshot of their mother Jacqueline (top), and their grandmother Sarah (bottom, seated second from the left, with members of her socialist group.)

-posted by Liana Grey

Friday, June 12, 2009

Summer in the City - Shakespeare in the Park(ing Lot)

Up in Central Park, Shakespeare's masterpieces are performed in a stadium surrounded by grass, trees, and the historic Belvedere Castle. Here in the Lower East Side, they're staged from July through August in ... the Municipal Parking Lot on Ludlow Street. Central Park may seem hard to beat, but the parking lot setting is gritty and low key, the performances (by a group of up-and-coming artists in the Drilling CompaNY) are probably edgy, and you don't have to wait in line for five hours to snag tickets. More info here.

Same playwright, different venues

-posted by Liana Grey

Night Shoot at the Museum

A late-night shoot at 97 Orchard Street for a Canadian documentary, airing this October...

June 9, 2009
-posted by Kate Stober

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A New Art Exhibit in 97 Orchard's Windows

Later this summer, the grave markers in 97 Orchard's street and stoop level windows will be replaced with tea-stained strips of paper recording visitors' family histories. Artist Michele Brody kicked off her project with a group of ESOL students, offering them cups of tea and transcribing their stories onto paper that, steeped in the brown leaves, looked at least a century old. Starting tonight, passersby are welcome to drop by Brody's handmade cart (pictured below, while it was still a work in progress), which will be parked on the sidewalk near the museum. Rain date: Next Thursday.

-posted by Liana Grey

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Tour of Neighborhood Bookstores

Museum shop manager Katherine Broadway guest blogs about her favorite places to browse for books on the Lower East Side.

Book lovers worldwide have heard of The Strand and its 18 miles of used and new books up near Union Square, but the Lower East Side still has some bookstore gems that haven’t fallen victim to the recession. Our bookstore at the Tenement Museum has a wide selection of books on New York history and immigration, including a fantastic (if I do say so myself) children and young adult section. For a taste of New York bookselling at its finest, check out some of my other downtown favorites.

Just blocks from the Tenement Museum on Allen Street (just south of Houston) is Bluestockings, one of the last radical bookstores left in the city. A haven for socialists, hipsters, and all those who don’t fit in elsewhere, Bluestockings combines a wide selection of queer and feminist theory, radical political tomes, and homemade zines with a diverse fiction section. Check out their calendar of events, packed with happenings almost every night, and be sure to pick up a vegan treat from the cafĂ©.

The first time I set foot inside St. Mark’s Bookshop(on 3rd Ave between 8th and 9th Streets), I fell in love. The high ceilings, bookshelves reaching far above my head, and old-fashioned rolling ladders made me feel like I was in the private library of some rich old aristocrat. This is the kind of bookstore where you can spend hours tucked into a nook, dipping into as many books as you please. And they are open until midnight, so you won’t be rushed out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Great Summer Eats on the Lower East Side

The Tenement Museum staff sometimes feel as though our lives revolve around the Lower East Side. We give directions to anyone who's carrying a guidebook or looks lost. We offer advice on what to see and do and how long it takes to walk there. And, of course, we tell people where to eat.

Here are our staff picks for best summertime noshes in the neighborhood:

"Quickly on Grand between Chrystie and the Bowery has great bubble tea. I like milk black tea with coffee. They also have fruit-flavored slushies." - Kate, public affairs

"Bario Chino on Broome Street - they open all the windows in the summer." - Amanda, programs & events

"Castillo! Essex!" - Jeff, web/IT

"My favorite cool summer food - hummus and salad for $5.00 from the Kebab place on Orchard and Rivington. Ideal take-out." – Arnhild, buildings & operations

"The new Vietnamese sandwich place on Orchard is great. And of course, Il Laboratorio del Gelato right next door to the Museum." - David, public affairs

"All people must go to Lula's Sweet Apothicary on 6th and A. They serve all manner of vegan frozen treats, and I usually go every Sunday (for Sundaes!)" - Jeffrey, education

"Tiny's is a great sandwich place, good summer food. Sarah Roosevelt Park north of Grand Street is a nice place to go eat your sandwich. There are people selling ices on Delancey Street walking towards the East River, cheap and delicious. And Sixth Ward and Lucky Jack's are favorite happy hour places for a cold beer after work." - Pedro, education

An ice seller on the LES last century

-posted by Kate Stober

Monday, June 8, 2009

Summer in the City

The Lower East Side is a great place to take a stroll in the summertime. Grab an ice cream from an old-fashioned sidewalk cart (the vendors tend to hang around Clinton Street), and head down Essex Street to Seward Park, opened by the government in 1903 as a play space for children and named after the senator that purchased Alaska. And if it gets too hot, slip into an air-conditioned restaurant, boutique, or bookstore - a luxury 19th century New Yorkers didn't have. Museum staff will be sharing their favorite neighborhood activities this week.

Ice cream in New York, the beginning of last century and now. Seems like vendors’ uniforms haven’t changed much over the years.

-posted by Liana Grey

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tomorrow at the Museum - ASL Immigrant Soles Walking Tour

Join us tomorrow at 1 pm outside the Visitor's Center (108 Orchard Street) for an American Sign Language interpreted tour of the Lower East Side. We'll walk past places where 19th century immigrants worshipped, worked, played, and went to school. ASL tours are usually the first Sunday of every month. Check out our tours page for more info.

-posted by Liana Grey

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mark Your Calendar - Egg Rolls and Egg Creams

Every year, the Museum at Eldridge Street hosts a street festival celebrating Chinese and Jewish culture. (The restored synagogue's home just north of the Manhattan Bridge, formerly a Jewish neighborhood, is now in the heart of Chinatown.) Head over to 12 Eldridge Street this Sunday for free food and entertainment, including live performances by Klezmer bands and a local Chinese orchestra. Details:

-posted by Liana Grey

Chicago's Public Housing Museum

A series on historic residential buildings around the world that have been turned into museums.

Most historic housing projects on the Lower East Side, like Knickerbocker Village near the Manhattan Bridge, home to mobsters for part of the 20th century, and East River Housing, which replaced 13 acres of slums in the 1950s, are still occupied today.
Not so for one of Chicago's early public housing developments. Founded by social reformer Jane Addams during the Great Depression, it provided affordable one and two bedroom apartments for struggling Mexican, Italian, Jewish, and African-American families until the early part of this century, when the buildings were abandoned.
A group of social historians and preservationists are now converting this building into a museum modelled after "the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City, the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa, and other social history museums throughout the world." [Public Housing Museum]
Check their website to learn more, as they work to "create a place for social reflection, public dialogue, and education for the future."

Affordable housing projects, here and in Chicago:

Left: The East River Housing Project near the Williamsburg Bridge. Right: The only remaining building of the Jane Addams Houses complex, abandoned in 2002, and now a museum.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mark Your Calendar - "Gotham and Its Garbage" At the NY Public Library

When cars park illegally in street-cleaning zones, the Department of Sanitation slaps on bright green notification stickers proclaiming, "a cleaner New York is up to you." Back in the 1890s, New York's cleanliness (there wasn't much of it at the time) rested in the hands of City Hall and public health campaigns. Next Monday, anthropologist Robin Nagle will be lecturing on sanitation reforms at the Public Library in midtown. Details from the library calendar:

"Gotham and Its Garbage: A History of Public Waste, Public Health, and the Department of Sanitation," with Robin Nagle

Monday, June 8th
6:30 PM

Mid-Manhattan Library
455 5th Avenue

It took centuries for New York City to find the will to manage its municipal waste and to keep its streets clean. The effort found success for the first time in the 1890s, when political reform, public health campaigns combined with a moral teaching that tried to foster an upstanding citizenry by creating a well-ordered environment. The anthropologist-in-residence for the New York City Department of Sanitation will focus on the moment in the city's history when these strands came together and will describe how these changes had a lasting impact on the health and well-being of New Yorkers.

-posted by Liana Grey

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Drayton Hall

A series on historic residential buildings around the world that have been turned into museums.

Miles away from England's workhouses, literally and on the socioeconomic spectrum, this old brick plantation house just outside Charleston, South Carolina preserves layers of early American history. 23 year old John Drayton, the son of British immigrants, built a Georgian-Palladian style mansion on 350 acres of farmland several decades before the American Revolution, and his grandson and great-grandson (both named Charles) lived through the cultural battles over slavery leading up to the Civil War. In the early 1800s, the family owned about 26 slaves. This virtual tour tells their stories, and those of the seven generations of Draytons who managed the property before it was sold to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1974.

-posted by Liana Grey