Appetite for Knowledge
July 1, 2014

The sun never sets on the Lower East Side. Okay sometimes it does, but the fun continues!

New York is truly the city that never sleeps – ride the subway at any time of day, 4 pm or 4 am, and you’ll see people coming and going from work or play, all bright eyed and bushy tailed (depending on how hard they played). The Lower East Side is an integral part to this urban insomnia.

While the Tenement Museum closes at 6 pm most nights, Thursdays are set aside for the night owls of the city. Now that the nights are getting warmer and the sun is setting later, the Museum is proud to announce that we will be offering a neighborhood walking tour on Thursday evenings-Outside the Home! As we inch closer and closer to the height of summer, the evenings will provide a perfect (cooler) time to explore the Lower East Side. You can experience the nocturnal neighborhood, and see how it lights up once the sun goes down. This tour strolls past several neighborhood landmarks, each one pivotal in the evolution of the LES as we know it today.

Good clean fun, visitors enjoy the Seward Park Reading Room. Seward Park was the first municple playground in the U.S. and is one stop on our Outside the Home tour. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library.

All of these stops will allow visitors to understand how residents would have spent their own evenings, at the Lowe’s Canal Street Theater for instance, or on the blocks of Hester and Grand Streets formerly home to pushcart peddlers and a block once the site of 19th Century German Beer Saloons. Of course, one might get a little thirsty and hungry after learning so much fascinating history at dinner time. Thankfully our friends at Top Hops Beer Shop, which Travel and Leisure Magazine called one of America’s best beer bars, are ready and willing to take care of your post tour appetites. Top Hops is offering 15% off your entire order if you show them your ticket to any of our Thursday night tours! And don’t worry if you’re footsore after your tour, Top Hops is right across the street from 97 Orchard.

While the prices have changes slightly over the years, Top Hops fills a familiar place on Orchard Street.

While you chow down on Top Hops’ local charcuterie and sample their more than 600 craft and imported beers, you can take comfort in the fact that you are participating in one of the Lower East Side’s most honored traditions – drinking beer! In the mid-1800’s, the Lower East Side was known as Kleindeustchland, or “Little Germany,” and was the 5th largest German-speaking area in the world. The German immigrants who settled in the area brought with them a love of and appreciation for good beer and saloon culture.

An image of a drinking saloon from around 1854. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library.

To the German immigrants, saloons were a place to meet other immigrants, speak German, listen to German music, eat German food, and of course, drink German beers. They could get advice about life in America, ask for work, or just relax for a moment, to have a familiar bite to eat and remember their homeland.

Tenement staffers participate in history Kleindeutschland style, but also responsibly.

These saloons were very popular in the middle of the 19th century – there were over 500 saloons in the neighborhood. On the block of Orchard Street between Delancey and Broome, there were three saloons, including one in the basement of 97 Orchard, and 94 Orchard Street, where Top Hops is today.

The tradition of the saloon and beer drinking went a bit by the wayside once the Lower East Side became a predominantly Eastern European Jewish neighborhood, as the new residents favored hanging out in coffee shops rather than saloons. Thankfully, beer culture and appreciation is making a comeback in the US today, and as always, the Lower East Side is at the forefront of the newest trends – blending the old and the new to create something that is quintessential to the neighborhood. And we think that our walking tours followed by a bite and a brew make a delicious combination!

–          Posted by Lib Tietjen, Evening Events Associate