Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Art & Culture | History

Great Museum and Book Store for History Buffs

The Tenement Museum NYC

About Lower East Side Tenement Museum

 & why it made the Carpe City list

  • History lives on Orchard Street. Costumed guides at the Tenement Museum bring the immigrant experience to life through apartment tours and special events like lectures and tastings.
  • FYI – You can only visit the Tenement Museum as part of a guided tour. Tickets are purchased inside the museum shop or online.  We recommend online so you can reserve a specific time.
  • On the tour, you will step inside the apartments and shops at 97 and 103 Orchard Street which are preserved to reveal the lives and stories of the people who came from all over the world to make new lives in America.
  • Between 1863 and 1935, 97 Orchard Street was home to about 7,000 people from 20 countries … and each apartment was only about 325 sq ft!
  • Today, you can visit 7 apartments and a 19th-century beer saloon. Step inside and you’ll meet…
    • John and Caroline Schneider, German immigrants who ran the saloon from 1864 – 1886.
    • Bridget and Joseph Moore, Irish immigrants who moved here in 1869.
    • Israel and Goldie Lustgarten, who operated a Kosher butcher shop out of 97 Orchard from 1886-1902, and Harris and Jennie Levine who set up a garment factory in her apartment, living and working with 10 people in the 325 sq ft space until 1905.
    • Rachel and Abraham Confino, who arrived from Greece in 1913, and Adolfo and Rosaria Baldizz who arrived from Sicily in 1928.
    • A few doors down, at 103 Orchard Street, the story continues. Here, you can explore family life and the immigrant experience on Orchard Street after World War II.
    • The programming at 103 Orchard focuses and 3 families, the Epsteins, who arrived as refugees and Holocaust survivors in 1947, the Saez-Valez family, from Puerto Rico, who moved to 103 Orchard in 1964 and stayed until 2011, and the Wongs, from Hong Kong, who immigrated in 1968 and lived in the building until 2014!
  • Thursdays are a great day at the Tenement Museum, since exhibits are open late, and the museum offers a myriad of late-night programing.
  • Children under the age of 6 are not allowed on most tours, so check out the age requirements if you’re planning on bringing young children.
  • If your experience at the Tenement Museum has you feeling at home in the neighborhood, go out and explore! A number of neighborhood restaurants offer nice discounts to Tenement Museum visitors.
  • If you are a history buff, do not miss a visit to the museum shop.  It is one of our favorite shops in the city for NYC related books.

Carpe City Trivia

So what exactly is a tenement?

  • Technically, a tenement is any multiple occupancy building. But, in the 1860s, the New York State legislature defined tenements as any building rented as a home to more than 3 families living independently of one another, or more than 2 families per floor.
  • In the 1830s, tenements became the predominant form of workers’ housing in New York City. Since then, the term “tenement” has been associated with cheap housing for the poor or working class, as opposed to middle-class “apartment houses,” which became fashionable in the late 19th century.

The Lower East Side was once the most densely populated place in the world!

By 1890, the Lower East Side was home to more people per square acre than anywhere else on earth.

The Tenement Museum was once home to the Oracle of Orchard Street!

  • At the turn of the 20th century, Professor Dora Meltzer, of 97 Orchard Street, billed herself as “The World Famous Palmist and Mind Reader.” She claimed, in both Yiddish and English, that she could see “the past, present, and future.”
  • For 15 cents, she doled out “the best advice in business, journeys, lawsuits, love, sickness, family affairs, etc.”
  • Meltzer was not the only fortuneteller on the Lower East Side. Abraham Hochman, whose profession was listed in the 1910 census as “mind reader,” was the official psychic for the bosses of Tammany Hall, and was known as “the richest man on Rivington Street.”
By: Lucie Levine

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