A New Chapter
February 4, 2014

For more than 25 years, the Tenement Museum has been telling the stories of 97 Orchard Street. And while 200,000 visitors a year can attest to its fascinating history, our beloved building does have one flaw: it closed in 1935, but the neighborhood kept evolving around it! That’s why we’re planning new exhibits exploring the stories of immigrants who settled on the Lower East Side in the mid to late 20th century.

103 Orchard Street currently houses the Museum's store and classrooms, and is the future site of new permanent exhibitions.

In the years following World War II, the Lower East Side became home to an increasing number of Chinese immigrants, Puerto Rican migrants, and Jewish Holocaust survivors. New foods, languages and customs came along with these residents, and the neighborhood reflected the change. At 103 Orchard Street – currently home to our visitor center – all three of these groups lived side by side, sharing struggles and aspirations despite their very different backgrounds. Our new exhibits will tell some of these stories.

The exhibits are still several years away from opening, so for now, let’s enjoy some photos that trace the evolution of the neighborhood since the closure of 97 Orchard in 1935.

WPA photographer Arnold Eagle snapped this shot of the Lower East Side in 1935, the year that 97 Orchard was no longer inhabitable:

Lower East Side Tenement Museum photographic collection.

In 1938, Lower East Siders still shopped for bargains from pushcarts, as seen in this view of Hester St. between Allen and Orchard Streets:

Pushcart 1938

Photo courtesy NYPL.

A view of Lower Manhattan from the Lower East Side in the mid-1940’s:

Lower East Side Tenement Museum photographic collection.

Two women walk down the expanded Allen Street in 1960. The Allen Street elevated subway, which rattled down the street since the 1870’s, was dismantled in the 1940’s:

Lower East Side Tenement Museum photographic collection.

A conversation and cards on the street in 1975:

Lower East Side Tenement Museum photographic collection.

A view of Orchard Street from Broome Street in 1988, the year that 97 Orchard became the Lower East Side Tenement Museum:

Lower East Side Tenement Museum photographic collection.

A view of Lower Manhattan from the roof of 97 Orchard Street in 1992:

Lower East Side Tenement Museum photographic collection.

In the words of our President, Morris J. Vogel, “Now more than ever, the Tenement Museum’s mission and work is deeply relevant. The story of our nation’s immigrants is America’s defining narrative, and the joys and challenges of establishing new lives and new communities continue for present-day immigrants around the world.  We’re proud and excited that we’ll soon be able to explore a wider range of these stories for a larger audience.”

We look forward to a bright future in revealing the past.

– Posted by Lib Tietjen and Kira Garcia