Father’s Day at 97 Orchard Street
June 17, 2013

Yesterday we celebrated fathers across the globe. For many of the over 7,000 people who lived at 97 Orchard Street over the 70 years of its existence, fathers had a special place in their hearts and their families. Each of the fathers of 97 Orchard immigrated to the United States to make a better life for themselves, and, by extension, for their families. Today we’re going to focus on two doting dads – Joseph Peter Moore and Adolfo Baldizzi.

The Moore Apartment – while the Moore family only lived here for a year which was marked by tragedy, they made a cozy home for their family.

Joseph Peter Moore immigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1865. He found work as a waiter and bartender, despite the virulent anti-Irish sentiment in New York City at the time. The saloon where Joseph worked was controlled by Tammany hall and stood at the center of Irish immigrant politics in New York City. Joseph soon married Bridget Meehan and the two moved to the filthy and dangerous Five Points neighborhood (near the present day Civic Center in Lower Manhattan). Joseph moved his family out of the overcrowded and gang-ridden Five Points to a new apartment on the Lower East Side nearly every year – he was trying desperately to provide adequate housing and provisions for them. Joseph as well as his wife and three daughters moved into 97 Orchard in 1869.

The Moores lived at 97 Orchard for only a year. Sadly, during that time their five-month-old daughter Agnes Mary died of marasmus, a disease borne of malnutrition. In fact, Joseph was a father who lost many of his most precious family members: of the 8 children that he and Bridget had, only four survived into adulthood. When Bridget died in childbirth at age 36, Joseph became the sole caretaker of his two remaining daughters, Mary and Jane. It surely took a man of strength and character to be a single dad in the 1860’s.

Looking sharp in his WWI uniform, this photo was taken before Adolfo came to the United States in the 1920's.

Adolfo Baldizzi stowed away on a ship from Polermo, Italy to New York in 1923, chasing stories that the streets in America were paved with gold. A year later, he sent for his wife, Rosaria, and in New York they had two children; Josephine in 1926 and John in 1928. Adolfo was a skilled woodworker and cabinet maker, and in order to support his children during the worst years of the Great Depression, he was “self-employed;” he walked around the streets of the Lower East Side, toolbox in hand, hoping someone would pay him for any sort of work. Josephine remembered her father’s skills as a woodworker and as a great dad in her wonderfully detailed oral history that she left for the museum. Adolfo provided for his family monetarily and emotionally: he decorated the apartment with handmade shelves built into the walls and grew morning glories in cheese boxes on the windowsill. Adolfo took his children to the Lowe’s movie theatre, bought them ice cream on hot summer days, played cards with them, and took them on walks in the neighborhood, even across the Williamsburg Bridge. In 1935, when 97 Orchard closed its doors, he moved his family to Eldridge Street and eventually Brooklyn, where Adofo worked in the booming WWII era shipyards and where the family remained for many years. Adolfo passed away in 1960 at the age of 64, having built his own streets of gold.

Life at 97 Orchard Street could be, and often was, very difficult for the men (and women!) who lived there. The sacrifices, the efforts, and no doubt the terribly silly Dad-jokes of the dads of 97 Orchard (and all dads throughout time) will be celebrated today. Happy belated Father’s Day to all the deserving dads in New York City and beyond!

– Posted by Lib Tietjen