Friday, May 29, 2009
From the Lower East Side, New York, NY
I took a short tour of a tenement apartment at 97 Orchard Street on the lower East side of NYC last week. The Tenement Museum tour guide first took us behind the building to a small courtyard to point out the pipe which was the sole source of water for the building in the 19th century.
Then we walked up 61 steps to the fourth floor to view the three room apartment where the Moores, an Irish-American immigrant family, lived in 1869. We were asked to imagine hauling buckets of water as we climbed the stairs. Almost unthinkable, especially when you realize that many women took in laundry for extra income.
A small kitchen, a tiny bedroom and a medium- sized living room with big front windows made up the living quarters. Clothes were hung on pegs on the wall. There was one big bed where I guess everyone slept. Thie Moore family lost an infant the year they lived in the apartment. There were so many ways to for children get sick back then, including the questionable freshness of milk sold in wagons on the street, not to mention a general lack of hygiene. Bridget Moore"s death certificate shows she died in 1888 at the age of 36, so she would have been a teenager when her third child died in 1869. The Museum provides many interesting primary sources and other educational tools from their website. Their museum store is terrific, stuffed to the gills with all things historically New York.
Just one hour on a humid day in the apartment was enough for me. My relatives came to America from Ireland about the same time period, settling in Brooklyn, so I chose the Irish tour instead of the two others given in the same tenement: German-Jewish and Italian-Catholic. Taking the tour really enhanced my understanding of the living conditions of those times.
Next door to the museum there is a interesting "boutique" hotel, the Blue Moon. A former tenement building, it has been lavishly restored with period-appropriate decor. There is also free wi-fi and many other amenities we 21st century travellers have become accustomed to. The Blue Moon is listed in the 4th edition of New York's Best 100 Little Hotels by Allan Sperry.
I have taken a short break from blogging following my retirement. I hope to be posting about every week in the future. I am still catching up with myself and don't believe I'll feel truly retired until a few more weeks have passed. In the meantime, I am brainstorming a new subtitle for the blog. I have grown tired of the title "Speed of Light", but guess I am stuck with it. Onward through the humid Houston summer which I hope will be filled with lots of swimming, gardening, dog walking, and of course, reading.