I was very impressed with the Tenement Museum on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
The museum provides an extraordinary look into the lives of the immigrants that lived in the tenement (apartment building) at 97 Orchard Street between 1863 and 1935.
The apartments have been restored to give insight into the lifestyles of the immigrants and the conditions they faced. Each room has a story and the museum’s guides convey them based on extensive and continuing research.
It’s estimated that about 7,000 people lived in the building before the final tenants were evicted in 1935. 97 Orchard Street was left vacant until 1988 when it was discovered by Tenement Museum founders, Ruth Abram and Anita Jacobson.
There are several apartment and walking tours available that vary in length and content. I took ‘’Piecing it Together”, a one hour tour that takes you inside two authentically restored apartments where Jewish families lived. Furniture, kitchenware, and other items are antiques that are the same or similar to those that the families would have used. The Levine family’s apartment was also a garment workshop and the guides provide much insight into the hardships of laborers at the turn of the 20th century.
There is a museum shop across Orchard Street from the apartment with many relevant books, maps and memorabilia. The tours all start from here, too.
I was able to purchase my ticket at the museum on the same day as my tour, but the museum was quite busy even though it was an off-season weekday. I recommend that you visit the Tenement Museum website and call ahead to make sure that tours are available.
The museum is only accessible by guided tours.
The location is on bus routes and only a few blocks from the subway station. Two hour free parking is also available nearby.