Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Lower East Side Tenement Museum
(Tenement buildings at 97 & 103 Orchard St.)
Lower East Side Tenement Museum is located in New York City
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Location 97 Orchard Street, Manhattan, New York 10002
Built 1863
Architectural style Italianate
Governing body private
NRHP Reference # 92000556[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP May 19, 1992
Designated NHL April 19, 1994
Designated NHS November 12, 1998

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, located at 97 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, is a National Historic Site. The five-story brick tenement building was home to an estimated 7,000 people, from over 20 nations, between 1863 and 1935. The museum, which includes a visitors' center down the block, promotes tolerance and historical perspective on the immigrant experience.


The building at 97 Orchard Street was contracted by Prussian-born immigrant Lukas Glockner in 1863 and was modified several times to conform with the city's developing housing laws. When first constructed, it contained 22 apartments and a basement level saloon. Over time, four stoop-level and two basement apartments were converted into commercial retail space, leaving 16 apartments in the building. Modifications over the years included the installation of indoor plumbing (cold running water, two toilets per floor), an air shaft, and gas followed by electricity. In 1935, rather than continue to modify the building, the landlord evicted the residents, boarded the upper windows, and sealed the upper floors, leaving only the stoop-level and basement storefronts open for business. No further changes were made until the Lower East Side Tenement Museum became involved with the building in 1988. As such, the building stands as a kind of time capsule, reflecting 19th and early 20th century living conditions and the changing notions of what constitutes acceptable housing.

In spite of the restoration, some parts of the upper floors are unstable and remain closed.

The Tenement Museum was founded in 1988 by Ruth J. Abram and Anita Jacobson. The Museum's key property, the tenement at 97 Orchard Street, was designated a National Historic Landmark on April 19, 1994. The National Historic Site was authorized on November 12, 1998. It is an affiliated area of the National Park Service but is owned and administered by the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. The site received a Save America's Treasures matching grant for $250,000 in 2000 for preservation work. In 2001 the museum was awarded the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence silver medal.[2] In 2005, the museum was among 406 New York City arts and social service institutions to receive part of a $20 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, which was made possible through a donation by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.[3][4] The National Defense Authorization Act for the 2015 fiscal year expanded the National Historic Site designation to also include the tenement at 103 Orchard Street.[5]

The Tenement Museum attracted some negative press related to its employees seeking union membership[6] as well as for its planned acquisition of the building at 99 Orchard Street through eminent domain.[7]

Exhibits, collections, and programs

The museum's exhibits include restored apartments that depict the lives of immigrants who lived at 97 Orchard Street between 1869 and 1935. The museum's public tours place these lives in the broader context of American history. The museum also has an extensive collection of historical archives and provides a variety of educational programs. The tenement is open for public tours daily. Neighborhood walking tours are also offered.

See also



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External links

  • Lower East Side Tenement Museum
  • National Park Service: Lower East Side Tenement Museum National Historic Site
  • Tenement Building at 97 Orchard Street, National Historic Landmark summary
  • "National Historic Landmark Nomination: Tenement Building at 97 Orchard Street", October 8, 1993, by Larry Lowenthal, Andrew S. Dolkart, and Judith P. Baumwoll.  PDF (152 KiB) and NHL Nomination Tenement at 97 Orchard Street--Accompanying 7 photos, exterior and interior, undated, courtesy of the National Park Service PDF (371 KiB)
  • Public Law No: 105-378
  • Biography of a Tenement House in New York City: An Architectural History of 97 Orchard Street, ISBN 978-1-930066-57-1