Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day 117- September 6

By Al

Today Sally and I decided to go to the Tenement Museum and walk around the Lower East Side. 
We also had lunch at Katz Deli. Katz has been around for years. It recently became famous as the restaurant with the famous scene from "When Harry met Sally." It was more famous during World War II when they urged parents to "Send a salami to your boy in the Army." They still have this as their motto, and will expedite international shipping to US service members overseas. The food was good but I still prefer Cecil's Deli in St. Paul.

The museum was very interesting.  It is a tenement building that was vacant from 1935 to 1988.  In 1988, they turned it into the museum.  You can only see it with a tour guide.  Our guide was excellent.  She knew a lot of history and told good stories about how the residents lived.  We recommend a tour when you come to New York.  She also talked about the rise of sweatshops leading up to the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. 

Outside Katzs Deli.

Our food.

The famous table.  "I'll have whatever she is having."

A gormet popcorn shop outside the Tenament Museum.

The Jewish Daily Forward building.  Launched as a Yiddish-language daily newspaper on April 22, 1897, the Forward entered the din of New York's immigrant press as a defender of trade unionism and moderate, democratic socialism. It is still published.  This is the building where it used to be published.  You can still see the work "Forward" on the side of the building.

Read more:

The front of the building.  There is a profile of Karl Marx, and some famous Socialists on the building.  They are near the bottom of the pciture, below the window.  We were told that the building is being converted into pricey condominiums. What would Karl think of this?

The clock at the top.

Nearby, the Bowery Savings bank building.

The top of the building.

Sally's Day

Our first visit to the Lower East Side was fun and educational.

We started with a tour at the Tenement Museum.  The museum purchased a former tenement building that not been used since 1936.  They left one of the units unchanged.  They refurnished two other units as they would have existed in 1900-1910.  The museum has done extensive research about the families that lived there. 
This is the first unit we visit.  sorry the picture is not better.  It is a photo of a post card because taking pictures was not permitted.
This unit was occupied by the Levines.  The unit is about 325 sq. feet, about the size of our apartment.  In addition to  the Levines and their three children, 3 to 4 people came every day to do piecework.  Three people worked in the front room sewing, and the presser worked in the kitchen pressing the pieces as they were sewn.  Mr. Levine's profit on each dress was $.50.  From this, he had to purchase equipment and supplies, pay his employees and pay himself.  They made 10 dresses a day.  It was hot and crowded.

The second unit was occupied by the Rogarshevsky family, who lived there a few years after the Levines.  By this time, the work had been moved to factories in the Lower East Side.  There were three daughters, who were seamstresses.  The furnishings, as you can see, were nicer.  By this time, New York had passed an ordinance requiring a toilet for every three apartments in a building.  The landlord was also required to provide windows- meaning that they now had a window in the bedroom.  The units are in the style of a shotgun house- living room in the front, kitchen in the middle, bedroom in the back.

As Al mentioned, we had a wonderful guide.  The museum has four tours available.  It was probably the best tour I have been on.  They also have a movie with the history of the Lower East Side.

If you are interested in this area and the immigrant experience in the Lower East Side, I recommend the book How the Other Half Lives, by Jacon Riis.  Mr. Riis went into the Lower East Side and took photos of the dire conditions there.  It is harrowing reading.  His work led to reforms in the housing laws, and the development of settlement houses.

The good news was that most people lived in the Lower East Side for about 10 years, and were able to more to better conditions. 

Our building was built during this period to house families where at least one member had TB.  Disease was rampant on the LES- due to poor sanitation and the crowded conditions.  An interesting connection between the Lower and Upper East Side.

We finished the outing with pastries in Little Italy.


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