New tour at the tenement museum

The old Loew's Canal, built 1927

The old Loew's Canal, built 1927

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is kicking off the outdoor season April 4 with a new walking tour, Immigrant Soles.

The museum has given a walking tour of the Lower East Side since 2005, but this one has a new focus on the daily lives of neighborhood immigrants from 1863 to 1935. How did they spend their time (as much as possible, outside their overcrowded and airless apartments)? How did they create an American identity? What were their everyday struggles?

Hints come from newspaper ads; from the advice column in the Jewish socialist newspaper, The Forward; and from “the historical landscape itself,” says David Favaloro, director of curatorial affairs.

Some things haven’t changed so much: just as young people today—including the children of immigrants—often work in retail, teenage girls coveted jobs at the E. Ridley & Sons department store, where the pay was not so hot, but the work sure beat the garment factories.

Favaloro led a preview of the walk this week with VP of Education Annie Polland. The tour covers shopping, worshiping, banking, politics, education, and entertainment. And because the Lower East Side is very much an immigrant neighborhood still, it’s the farthest thing from a theme park.

New York is full of walking tours, many of which are worthwhile. What I liked most about this one is that it doesn’t focus on the famous Someones or the Major Incidents. This is about ordinary life a century ago, and the ways in which people navigated its demands and complexity.

“Historians have to pick their theme,” Polland says. “Living there, you experience it all at once.”

The 90-minute tour will be offered once a day Saturday and Sunday, starting April 6, and will expand to twice daily by summer. Admission is $17 for adults, $13 students & seniors. A discount is available if you combine it with tickets for a tenement tour and make a day of it—god knows it won’t be hard to find a place for lunch.

And stay tuned for another walking tour this fall!

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One Response to “New tour at the tenement museum”

  1. I’d love to come! I really really would love to trace the route, find the place on Allen Street, where Billy Rose grew up, where his father pushed his cart, and how he and his friends lived in the days around the turn of the century. Please?!

    Cheers!