Orchard Street

History

At Only Eight Blocks Long, Orchard Street is Short on Space but Long on History.

Orchard Street sign lower east side

About Orchard Street

 & why it made the Carpe City list

  • As the commercial spine of the Lower East Side, Orchard Street was once known as a bargain hunter’s paradise.  Today, if you know where to look, you can still score a deal or two at the thoroughfare’s trendy shops and restaurants. And, if you’re in the area in October, be sure to swing by Orchard Street’s annual Lower East Side Pickle Festival!
  • Along Orchard Street, you’ll see several blocks of tenements. These iconic, low-rise brick buildings with the fire escapes out front were the city’s primary housing for immigrants in the 19th century.
  • You can learn all about turn-of-the-century tenement life at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum at 103 Orchard Street.
  • The tenements stand as a proud legacy of the immigrant history of the Lower East Side and our nation, when the neighborhood was the first port of call for millions of people from around the world who made new lives in America.
  • That immigrant hustle shaped the LES, as residents set up shop and literally hustled through the streets with pushcarts, hawking their wares.
  • In fact, some of Orchard Street’s most iconic shops have pushcart origins:
  • Not one, but two, of the city’s best-known eyeglass emporiums – Moscot and Cohen’s Fashion Optical began as pushcart enterprises on Orchard.
  • Now, both are worldwide brands, but they still maintain brick and mortar operations on Orchard Street, right across from each other at 108 & 117 Orchard St.
Orchard Street Joes Fabrics Moscot
Moscot Eyewear on Orchard Street
  • Eyewear notwithstanding, Orchard Street was really about fashion and textiles.
  • In the 1800s, most Orchard Street residents were garment workers.  At the time, tenement apartments doubled as garment factories, where residents worked in their homes.
  • According to Gothamist, the area was so dense with garment factories that the LES was the garment manufacturing capital of the entire nation, producing up to 70% of all women’s clothing!
  • Times have changed, but the roots of the textile trade are still here.  We love that on Orchard you can still find a very “Sopranosesque” shirt, with 1920s gangster shoes to match, then pick up some gothic wear before popping into the corset store while on your way to a fab spot for some vegan, cruelty-free footwear.  Only in New York…
  • On Orchard, you will also find third-generation, family-owned Zarin Fabrics.  Flourishing at 69 Orchard Street since 1936, Zarin is now the single largest resource for discount fabrics in the tri-state area.
  • The iconic Beckenstein Building, at 130 Orchard Street, still sports red, white, yellow and blue signage extolling the values and savings to be had at Beckenstiein Fabrics, established in 1919.
  • Today, the Beckenstein building is home to the fabulous Perrotin art gallery, but Beckenstein Fabrics is still in business.  The city’s “Fabric Czars,” as they are known,  moved to 39th Street in 2003, and are in their 4th generation of family ownership.
  • Beckenstein and Zarin are actually the new kids on the block – Mendel Goldberg Fabrics, around the corner at 72 Hester Street, has been there since 1890!

Carpe City Trivia

What about those bargains you mentioned?

  • Mayor La Guardia may have pushed the pushcarts off the street and into the Essex Street Market in 1940, but well into the ’90s, Orchard Street was jammed with mountains of discount merch.
  • Bargain shoppers roamed the sidewalks, which were cluttered with great finds, like a giant, street-long bazaar.
  • Orchard Street was long a bargain hunter’s paradise because it offered Sunday shopping when most stores in the city did not.
  • Traditionally, Jewish business owners on Orchard Street closed on Saturdays and kept their stores open on Sundays. Other stores, observing blue laws, were shuttered.

Why is it called Orchard Street?

  • Just like there used to be a wall on Wall Street, there used to be an orchard on Orchard St.
  •  It belonged James De Lancey, a member of the wealthy, 18th-century loyalist land-owning family for whom Delancey Street is named.

By: Lucie Levine

New York City Tours

Great Places Near Orchard Street

The Tenement Museum NYC
Art & Culture

Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Great Museum and Book Store for History Buffs

103 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Delancey Street Sign Lower East Side
Art & Culture

Delancey Street

From a Loyalist Farm, to Sketchy Gangland, to a Discount District, to Hip Hood, this Street is Full of Interesting History

77 Delancey St, New York, NY 10002
Street Art Stik Mural
Art & Culture

Stik Migrant Mural

Seven-Story Mural by British Street Artist, Stik on Avenue of the Immigrants

102 Allen St, New York, NY 10002
Bradley Theodore Street Art Hotel Chantelle
Art & Culture

Hotel Chantelle

Clubby Rooftop Brunch Locale Adorned with Quality Street Art

92 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002
Street Art 132 Allen St Sara Erenthal
Art & Culture

Allen Street Art

Block after Block of Ever-Changing Street Art

120 Allen Street New York, NY 10002
Ten Bells Natural Wine Carpe City
Bars

The Ten Bells

A Destination for Natural Wine with a Laid Back Atmosphere & Great Oyster Happy Hour

247 Broome St, New York, NY 10002
Perrotin Gallery NYC Lower East Side
Art & Culture

Perrotin New York

A Top Contemporary Art Gallery Housed in Historic Orchard St Digs

130 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
russ and daughters cafe
Restaurants

Russ & Daughters Cafe

Historic Appetizing Shop Expands into an All-Day Cafe

127 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
ICP Museum and School Lower East Side
Art & Culture

International Center of Photography Museum & School

A School & Museum Whose Focus is on Developing Images that Make an Impact on the World

79 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

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