Friday, May 3, 2024

New York: The Tenement Museum

On our second full day in New York, we visited the New York Tenement Museum. It was a short walk from our hotel in Chinatown. On the way there, we stopped to get a couple of slices of Pizza. After that, we were ready to go. 

It was very interesting, and we had basically a private tour.  The Lower East Side tenement was originally built in 1888; it’s what’s called a prewar walk-up.  You see these tenements all the time in the movies and on television; it was fun to actually go inside and see them personally. 

The tour included profiles of two different families that lived here.  In this one Apartment: a Jewish Polish Holocaust survivor family and a Puerto Rican family who eventually moved in after them.  They both came to America for the promise of opportunity and Freedom.  It was an immigration story and a story of an ever-changing neighborhood.  

The first couple met in a refugee camp, married, then immigrated from eastern Germany.  They were the only surviving members of their entire families who were killed in the Holocaust.  They were from the same area of Prussia as my great-grandfather Skrofronic was from.  This area is now Poland.  It is such a small world.  In New York, they lived near their sponsor in the European Jewish Lower East Side building. 

This area of the Lower East Side eventually became a Spanish district. The inhabitants, mostly from Puerto Rico, worked in the garment industry. They worked in small, little factories that sewed together clothes. It was a hard, scrabble life. They raised families and chased the American dream. The children and Grandchildren of these two families now support the Museum.

The museum guide was very knowledgeable.  She described a lot of intimate details about the families,   We started the tour in the first-floor bookshop, then went outside to the tenement entrance and walked the stairs up to the Apartments.  At one time, the apartments did not have their own bathrooms. The four apartments on the floor shared a common bathroom. Eventually, by the time the Spanish family moved in, the apartments were renovated to include a bathroom. 

It was refreshing to hear the story of immigration. The struggles in life that make life worth living. The streets of New York were   the community thrived.  The Museum provide a picture of the American dream being played out. It reminds us how lucky we all have it in America. 

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