Even though it can seem like New York City is getting more and more crowded, and apartments are getting smaller and smaller, it’s nothing compared to the way people lived on the Lower East Side in the mid-19th to early 20th century. The tours at the Tenement Museum (recreated apartments in a 5-storey,1863 tenement building) give you a good idea of the living conditions successive waves of immigrants encountered when they arrived on these shores. Imagine living in one of the 20 apartments in the building in the photo!
I took the “Irish Outsiders” tour, which recounted the lives of Bridget and Joseph Moore, who in 1868 moved from 5 Points to Orchard Street (then called Kleindeutchland), with three daughters (and left with two). Through their story I learned much about daily life of the mix of immigrants on the Lower East side (Irish, Italians, Germans, Jews): how they tried to keep their cultural heritage while assimilating, and their struggles to find decent jobs, housing and education – issues immigrants still face today. The Museum can only be visited through guided tours. Find out more here
The gift shop is a terrific place for NYC-centric gifts; their book selection is great!