Tenement Museum in New York

Tenement Museum in New York

The Tenement Museum in New York tells the history of the city’s many immigrants. Through the lives of real people, it gives visitors a unique look at New York’s history. The enthusiastic guides tour you through different apartments based on different topics and bring you back in time. You’ll see how the Loewe East Side developed into “Klein Deutschland”, got taken up by eastern Europeans and finally, the Irish community settled in.

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Tenement Museum in New York

The Tenement Museum, one of the top New York museums, is in the Lower East Side on 97 Orchard Street. The museum was established in 1988 and restored six abandoned apartments back to their original state. Between 1863 and 1935, this apartment complex was home to over 7000 immigrants of 20 different nationalities. It’s located in an apartment complex that was once home to over 7,000 immigrants of 20 different nationalities between 1863 and 1935. The inhabitants had all one thing in common: they were faced with huge challenges under extremely poor circumstances. They had to get accustomed to a new identity, work extremely hard for a better future, and support their families with very limited funds. They did not have gas, running water or electricity. Also, the toilet, which was located in the backyard, had to be shared with 20 other families.

Tenement Museum in New York - Apartment Tenement Museum in New York - Original State

Tour the Apartments of the Tenement Museum

There are three ways to explore the Tenement Museum:

  • Take an apartment tour on 97 Orchard Street
  • Meet the residents, played by costumed actors
  • Book a neighbourhood walking tour through Lower East Side and discover how the immigrants’ neighbourhood has evolved
Eric’s Tip: “Tenement is a nice museum to visit if you’ve already been to the best-known museums and want to learn a little more about the melting pot that New York is and was. It’s especially great to combine with the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island, as it gives you a deeper understanding of how it was for people who arrived in the New World.”

You can only visit the apartments during a guided tour. Often more than one tour starts at the same time, so pay attention you are joining the right group. Tenement Museum offers many impressive apartment tours. These are a few of my favourites:

Family Owned

During this tour you can visit the oldest apartment of the building; on the ground floor of 97 Orchard, the Schneider family ran a beer saloon and lived in the room behind it. You will discover what it was like to own a business in the 1870s. Family businesses were cornerstones of many neighbourhoods, and so it was also in Little Germany of Lower East Side. The bar was an important meeting place for German immigrants.

  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Age limit: 6+

After the Famine

Get to know the family life of Joseph and Bridget Moore and what it meant to flee the Great Famine in Ireland and become Irish-American in New York. Despite the many differences and prejudices due to politics, religion and culture, the Irish were able to climb the social ladder. The world’s largest and oldest St. Patrick’s Day Parade is undeniable proof of this!

  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Age limit: 5+

100 Years Apart

Learn how immigrant women survived amidst economic hardship. You visit the house of German Jewish Gumpertz family where Natalie is left to cope on her own when the man of the house suddenly disappeared during the Panic of 1873, a three-year-long depression and financial crisis that knew many bankruptcies and strikes. 100 years later Mrs. Wong faces similar struggles in her Chinatown garment shop.

Duration: 75 minutes
Recommended age: 5+

Eric’s Tip: “If you want to get the best experience of the museum then I suggest first watch the film “The Immigrant” with Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner, Marion Cotillard before going to the museum. It’s a great combination if you are interested in the history and living conditions of the immigrants.”

Practical Information

It is advised to be at the museum at least 15 minutes before the tour starts. While you are waiting, the museum shop is definitely worth a visit.

  • Location: 103 Orchard Street, corner of Orchard and Delancey Street
  • Directions: Closest metro lines are B/D (Grand Street), F (Delancey Street), and J/M/Z (Essex Street). Or take the bus M15 to Allen/Grand Street. Hop on Hop off buses make a stop in nearby SoHo.
  • Opening hours: Daily 10:00 – 18:00
  • Age limit: Children under 5 cannot join most apartment tours, but are welcome to the neighbourhood tours and the “Meet the Resident” experience.

You can buy tickets here. On the site, you can see how many tickets are still available per tour. This is handy if you need to book for a big group.

Tenement Museum in New York - Immigrants Tenement Museum in New York - Restored Apartments

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