Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Questions for Curatorial: Renovation Habitations

Curatorial Director Dave answers your questions. Have a question for Dave about tenement living conditions or the history of the Lower East Side? Send us an email.

When the hallway toilets were introduced to 97 Orchard Street in 1905, where did the residents of the apartments on the south side of the building go?

In order to comply with the requirements of the 1901 Tenement House Act, at 97 Orchard Street, two water closets and an adjoining fireproof shaft of steel and terracotta were constructed on each floor in 1905, in space that had previously been part of the inner bedrooms of the apartments on the south side of the building.

The addition of the toilets and shaft reduced the square footage of the south apartments from 345 square feet to 318 square feet. The toilet rooms and shaft occupied a substantial part of the old bedrooms of 97 Orchard Street and similar buildings, making these inner rooms uninhabitable. To alleviate this problem, but keep a three-room arrangement in each apartment, the partitions between the kitchen and bedroom in all of the south apartments at 97 Orchard Street were rearranged.

Although the addition of hallway toilets was major structural undertaking that impacted the building’s livability, Museum researchers know little about how residents dealt with what must have been challenging situation. Indeed, those who inhabited the apartments on the south side of 97 Orchard Street would have experienced the greatest inconvenience, but there is no evidence to suggest whether or not they were evicted or found residence elsewhere during the construction.

Photo © Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum

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