We decided to visit the Tenement Museum, an absolutely beautiful Museum about the various immigrants and their lifes in New York. They restored the tenement building of 87 Orchard street which now shows the life of one former tenant from different periods of time on each level. We decided to take the “Shop Life” tour, as this portrays the life of the German Schneider Family, who ran a German saloon in the 1870’s. The museum is a storytelling museum and our guide was absolutely great. We learned alot about the reasons for immigration, why Schneider’s became a popular place and ultimately, why the business went down. All this happened in the Schneider’s home, which looked like they just had left a few moments ago.
In the main room of the saloon, where the tour started, we all sat down and learned why the Schneider’s had come to America and explored the various items in the room. We learned that music was an important part of the German saloon culture and that the sunday gatherings at the German saloons included women and children, which differentiated the Germans from the exitings saloon-culture in America. A major reason for these saloons to become very popular were the constinuously arriving new immigrants. Many of the new immigrants did not speak English and a place like Schneider’s was where they were able to find help and look for a job among people that spoke their language. This reminds me alot of my great-great-grandfather, who writes about many visits to the “Kurzenberger’s Weinstube” during his days in New York City.
We moved further back in the museum to visit the kitchen and the bedroom of the family and learned about the end of the Schneider’s era. The last room of the museum includes an interactive table, where we were able to read, listen and to look at pictures from the tenants that came afterwards and their life’s and the businesses they ran in this place. For each period, our guide explained the various characteristics of the dynamic neighborhood, which remains to be in a constant change.
Museum’s Website: www.tenement.org
I do recommend to buy the tickets in advance online, as many tours are sold by the time you arrive at the museum. Especially if you have only a few days in New York, I would definetly make sure to book online one or two days before.