With the temperature approaching 100 degrees again today, Orchard Street is sweaty--and slightly smelly. At the Museum, the "Eau de Summer" helps us describe what life was like for immigrants living in tenements with no air conditioning or plumbing and overcrowded rooms and streets. It paints a vivid sensory picture.
With the advent of the New Tenement Laws, private bathrooms were included in tenement buildings. By the 1920s, the City’s bathhouses were sites of social recreation—described as “almost as much of a summer resort as
Coney Island” (Bertram Reinitz, March 21, 1926).
The Municipal Bath House on Allen Street closed in 1975 due to the City’s financial crisis, but 133 Allen continues to serve immigrant communities. Today it is home to the
Church of Grace to Fujianese, which is mostly attended by immigrants from the Fujian Province on the southeast coast of . China
|The Church of Grace to Fujianese. Photograph by Robert K. Chin|
Established in 1988, the Church of Grace to Fujianese moved to 133 Allen in 1992. As new waves of Fujianese have arrived, the Church has grown exponentially, opening a second location on 6th Avenue in New York, as well as one in Philadelphia. In an effort to reach an even broader constituency, the Church holds services via conference call for Chinese immigrants throughout the U.S. The program was the subject of a 2006 story in the New York Times.
Though its purpose has changed dramatically, the elaborate facade of 133 Allen Street remains intact, including water-themed ornamentation left over from its former life. The layers of history and evolving uses of this building make it a great example of why the Lower East Side is an amazing place to visit--there are surprising stories on every block!
--Posted by Kathryn Barnard