Best reason to stop bitching about how small and noxious your apartment is (2008)

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum

A century ago—long before trendy bars, overpriced eateries, and bland glass monoliths took possession of the quarter—thousands of mostly recent, mostly Eastern European immigrants crowded the narrow streets of the Lower East Side: scurrying off to whatever work they could get; shopping, gossiping, visiting, and going to church; stoop-sitting, dreaming, starving, loving, drinking, and brawling; and doing anything they could to avoid being cooped up any longer than absolutely necessary in the meager, hideously overcrowded and crumbling lodgings they called home. Amenities were few in dismal buildings where fresh air was almost nonexistent, and plumbing consisted of a pump and an outhouse in a barren, rubbish-strewn rear yard. Perhaps some of the 7,000 people who lived for a time between 1863 and 1935 at Lukas Glockner's five-story tenement at 97 Orchard Street, which now houses The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, deemed themselves lucky indeed to have gas, running water, and indoor flush toilets (one per floor). Mostly they dreamed that with a lifetime of constant striving, they might work their way out of the downtown slums into less vile digs elsewhere—instead of into a much more likely early grave. Guided tours of these restored, period-correct, utterly fascinating apartments begin at 108 Orchard Street.


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