Monday, November 2, 2009

Work has begun on Rear Yard exhibit!

This week we started construction on the rear yard.

If you ever walked by in the past, or took The Moores: An Irish Family in America tour, you probably remember that the yard looked something like this:

The flagstones (stacked up around the edge) were removed from the yard. The large pieces of stone are architectural details from the old Daily Forward building, which the Museum salvaged when the building was being renovated into condos.

While the stone details will be put into storage, we're planning to use the flagstones in the restoration. We're building the wooden privy shed against that cinder block wall, installing a water pump next to that, and putting up a wooden fence around the yard, similar to what you see here:

This is Fanny Rogarshevsky and her son Sam in 97 Orchard Street's rear yard, early 20th century, but date unknown.

Here's what we plan for the final exhibit to look like:

The water pump is there on the left. Until well into the 20th century, there was a row of tenements up against ours on what is now the sidewalk and northbound traffic lane of Allen Street, so this image really does give a good sense of what our yard probably looked like circa 1904, when this photo was taken. (Courtesy New York Public Library, original source New York City Tenement House Department).

Here are some more photos from the NYPL to give you a better sense of what the privy shed will look like. (Warning, I'm sending you down a time-suck rabbit hole if you like looking at old pictures from the Tenement House Department - they're pretty interesting, and there are lots of them in the NYPL's collection.)

There will also be laundry lines and wash buckets to simulate the activity that would have constantly been going on in this space (for years, the only source of water for the building was the rear yard water pump, and the only toilets were back here, so you can imagine how many people would have been in and out all day long).

The restoration will be semi-visible from the street and will enhance The Moores tour by giving some context to the discussion about health and sanitation in tenement housing. For now, there are no plans for it to be its own free-standing tour or exhibit.

We'll keep you posted as work continues. We should be done in a few weeks!

- Posted by Kate

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