Lower East Side Tenement Museum NYC

A guided tour is the only way into New York’s Lower East Side Tenement Museum, a five-floor landmark 1863 tenement with apartments that have been decorated to recall the lives of actual residents.

About the Lower East Side Tenement Museum NYC: The Tenement Museum preserves and interprets the history of immigration through the personal experiences of the generations of newcomers who settled in and built lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, America’s iconic immigrant neighborhood; forges emotional connections between visitors and immigrants past and present; and enhances appreciation for the profound role immigration has played and continues to play in shaping America’s evolving national identity. A historian and social activist, Ruth Abram wanted to build a museum that honored America’s immigrants. New York’s tenements were the perfect place for her museum: these humble, multiple family buildings were the first American homes for thousands of immigrants. But the search for a tenement proved frustrating. By 1988, Abram and co-founder Anita Jacobson were nearly ready to give up. Then they stumbled upon the tenement at 97 Orchard Street. 97 Orchard’s initial appeal was an available storefront: Jacobsen and Abram considered renting the space to run tours of the Lower East Side. While inspecting the storefront, Jacobsen went to the hallway to look for a bathroom. She saw sheet-metal ceilings, turn-of-the-century toilets and an aging wood banister. “It was as though people had just picked up and left”, Jacobson recalled. It was a little time capsule…I called Ruth and said ‘We have got to have this building.’ It was perfect.” The search was over. Shuttered for over 50 years, 97 Orchard’s apartments were in ruin. It would take time to transform the tenement into a museum. Undaunted, researchers scavenged through 97 Orchard and combed through archives, compiling evidence about tenants and tenement life. After several years of research, the Museum began the difficult task of restoring apartments that had been left vacant for so long. In 1992, the Museum opened its first restored apartment, the 1878 home of the German-Jewish Gumpertz family. Over the past 20 years, the Tenement Museum has blossomed from an idea into a thriving institution. They’ve carefully restored 6 apartments, including their newest one: the home of the Moores, Irish immigrants who lived at 97 Orchard in 1869, and will continue to grow. In 2007, the Museum purchased 103 Orchard Street, which will serve as a flagship building for our Visitors Center, exhibitions and classrooms.

Location

  • 91 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002