Friday, March 9, 2012

Discovering Treasures With a Little Bit of Research...

Eva Silverman is a New Jersey native whose grandmother Gladys settled on the Lower East Side in 1920 as a Jewish immigrant from Poland. Eva's  "Mapping Roots" project explores New York City geography and history through her family's stories and photographs. She's currently working on an installation at the Carlton Arms Hotel here in New York City, where she'll be hosting a reception on Saturday, March 10.

In the following post, Eva finds the site in the Lower East Side where her grandmother attended school. For more information about Eva's work and the upcoming reception, visit her blog (where this post originally appeared).

I love research! There is nothing more satisfying than looking for something, following leads, and then finding it! This installation has been FULL of satisfaction on that level. Today, as I pair images of ‘now’ and ‘then’, I was looking for an image of a pushcart peddler on Hester Street. During my search, I found an image of a newspaper article that showed the inside of a school at Hester and Chrystie. This exact location is where my grandma went to ‘continuation school’ — which was what was required of her when she dropped out of high school to work in a sweatshop. Children under 16 who worked in the sweatshops, were required to work fewer hours and attend ”Continuation School’ for a half-day every Saturday.

The Lower East Side School that Eva's Grandmother attended

That corner of Hester and Chrystie streets has changed so much since then with the development in the late 30′s of the Sara D. Roosevelt park. When I returned to that corner the other day, it was hard to see where this ‘school’ could have been and I settled on the fact that maybe it had been small classrooms in some of the larger tenements. But then I found this photo and all that changed. Presumably, this was THE school where my grandma went to continuation school. It is no longer there. The above photo was taken in 1929, just a few years past when my grandma would have gone there. I read somewhere else that this was Public School 7 (P.S. 7) and that in a 1896 article was considered the dirtiest school in the city. There was an article written about it in 1905 — a little before my grandma’s time, but still interesting.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, all of these images are courtesy of the New York Public Library. They have an AMAZING archive of photos that have been digitized.

--Posted by Eva Silverman

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