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Biography of a Tenement House in New York City: An Architectural History of 97 Orchard Street

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I trace my ancestry back to the Mayflower, writes Andrew S. Dolkart. Not to the legendary ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620, but to the more prosaic tenement on the southeast corner of East Broadway and Clinton Street named the Mayflower, where my father was born in 1914 to Russian-Jewish immigrants. For Dolkart, the experience of being rai I trace my ancestry back to the Mayflower, writes Andrew S. Dolkart. Not to the legendary ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620, but to the more prosaic tenement on the southeast corner of East Broadway and Clinton Street named the Mayflower, where my father was born in 1914 to Russian-Jewish immigrants. For Dolkart, the experience of being raised in a tenement became a metaphor for the life that was afforded countless thousands of other immigrant children growing up in Lower Manhattan during the past century and more. Dolkart presents for us a precise and informative biography of a typical tenement house in New York City that became, in 1988, the site for the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Dolkart documents, analyzes, and interprets the architectural and social history of this building at 97 Orchard Street, starting in the 1860s when it was erected, moving on to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the neighborhood started to change, and concluding in the present day as the building is reincarnated as the museum. children, who were part of the transformation of New York City and the fabric of everyday American urban life.


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I trace my ancestry back to the Mayflower, writes Andrew S. Dolkart. Not to the legendary ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620, but to the more prosaic tenement on the southeast corner of East Broadway and Clinton Street named the Mayflower, where my father was born in 1914 to Russian-Jewish immigrants. For Dolkart, the experience of being rai I trace my ancestry back to the Mayflower, writes Andrew S. Dolkart. Not to the legendary ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620, but to the more prosaic tenement on the southeast corner of East Broadway and Clinton Street named the Mayflower, where my father was born in 1914 to Russian-Jewish immigrants. For Dolkart, the experience of being raised in a tenement became a metaphor for the life that was afforded countless thousands of other immigrant children growing up in Lower Manhattan during the past century and more. Dolkart presents for us a precise and informative biography of a typical tenement house in New York City that became, in 1988, the site for the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Dolkart documents, analyzes, and interprets the architectural and social history of this building at 97 Orchard Street, starting in the 1860s when it was erected, moving on to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the neighborhood started to change, and concluding in the present day as the building is reincarnated as the museum. children, who were part of the transformation of New York City and the fabric of everyday American urban life.

30 review for Biography of a Tenement House in New York City: An Architectural History of 97 Orchard Street

  1. 4 out of 5

    Janelle

    This is yet another book I am reading after visiting the Tenement Museum in New York's Lower East Side. I have always enjoyed "house tours" and I wanted to know more about 97 Orchard Street from an architectural perspective. The author was asked to prepare an architectural history of this property at the very beginning of the museum's life. I learned some of these details during my tour there, but the book provided much more context for "our" tenement building. In a very readable style, Dolkart w This is yet another book I am reading after visiting the Tenement Museum in New York's Lower East Side. I have always enjoyed "house tours" and I wanted to know more about 97 Orchard Street from an architectural perspective. The author was asked to prepare an architectural history of this property at the very beginning of the museum's life. I learned some of these details during my tour there, but the book provided much more context for "our" tenement building. In a very readable style, Dolkart walks readers through the housing laws and construction issues. Want to know about sewer systems, privies, transom windows, air shafts, sinks, and public hallways? This is the book for you. And, it's a quick read at only 123 pages filled with photographs and drawings. I also appreciated the final chapter, which discusses the challenges museum founders faced when deciding how to transform the building into a public museum.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This is a brief study of the building in which the Tenement Museum (one of my favorites) is located. The author has gone through the records to learn about the construction of the building and the various improvements done to it in its 75 year history. It is a fascinating look at building codes from nonexistent to constantly improving. It is hard to believe the original 5-story building had no light, no water, and windows only in the front room (of three). And this apartment was a step up for mo This is a brief study of the building in which the Tenement Museum (one of my favorites) is located. The author has gone through the records to learn about the construction of the building and the various improvements done to it in its 75 year history. It is a fascinating look at building codes from nonexistent to constantly improving. It is hard to believe the original 5-story building had no light, no water, and windows only in the front room (of three). And this apartment was a step up for most people. If you're interested in sociology, New York history, or how people live...you'll enjoy it. Unfortunately, it's out of print and I had to buy a used copy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Helene

    It was great to read both this book and 97 Orchard by Jane Ziegelman at the same time. Both gave life to tenement housing and the immigrants who lived there. Though both are well researched, Dolkart's book focuses on the architecture and legislation involved with this type of building. Even his notes are worth reading for the little insights they give. I hope to visit the Tenement Museum sometime in the near future. It was great to read both this book and 97 Orchard by Jane Ziegelman at the same time. Both gave life to tenement housing and the immigrants who lived there. Though both are well researched, Dolkart's book focuses on the architecture and legislation involved with this type of building. Even his notes are worth reading for the little insights they give. I hope to visit the Tenement Museum sometime in the near future.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marlies

    Very interesting, if, like me, you are obsessed with the Tenement House Museum and old New York.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    3.5/5 stars

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Herlocker

    This is one of the best things I brought home from my trip to New York! Good summary of the building used as the Tenement Museum main focus. The book's focus on the history of the building itself was just thorough enough to be of interest to a wide range of people with an interest in history. The only thing that would have been better would have been a little more details of the folks who lived in the house -- although I suppose that might have broadened the scope too much for the author's purpo This is one of the best things I brought home from my trip to New York! Good summary of the building used as the Tenement Museum main focus. The book's focus on the history of the building itself was just thorough enough to be of interest to a wide range of people with an interest in history. The only thing that would have been better would have been a little more details of the folks who lived in the house -- although I suppose that might have broadened the scope too much for the author's purpose.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    Dolkart's sensitive treatment of the archival material and personal anecdotes brings a strong academic tone without losing the living and breathing stories which the Lower East Side Tenement Museum is known for. This should be required reading in schools across the world to promote an understanding of immigration and communities as well as what can be achieved by a small institution with conviction. Dolkart's sensitive treatment of the archival material and personal anecdotes brings a strong academic tone without losing the living and breathing stories which the Lower East Side Tenement Museum is known for. This should be required reading in schools across the world to promote an understanding of immigration and communities as well as what can be achieved by a small institution with conviction.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I hesitate to give 4 stars to something that I am essentially using for the footnotes (as a research tool). However, this was really succinctly and interestingly written, incorporating actual detail from 97 Orchard Street and surrounding neighborhoods into discussion of housing policy reform in order to make it more tangible and less dry. I also really like the book's design. The graphic artist behind this deserves some serious praise; even the page numbers look stellar. I hesitate to give 4 stars to something that I am essentially using for the footnotes (as a research tool). However, this was really succinctly and interestingly written, incorporating actual detail from 97 Orchard Street and surrounding neighborhoods into discussion of housing policy reform in order to make it more tangible and less dry. I also really like the book's design. The graphic artist behind this deserves some serious praise; even the page numbers look stellar.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This was a fascinating look into the architectural history of tenements from the mid 19th century to the early 20th. The illustrations were fantastic and the writing engaging. My only complaint would be that with all the focus on building codes, renovations, etc. there was less information on how such changes impacted the people living there at the time. A timeline of when each family written about was occupying a set of rooms would have been helpful, as well.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I read the first edition of this and was very happy to find out that this second edition had additional new information. It's always fun to see beautiful huge houses and imagine living in them. When you visit the Tenement museum you get to imagine life as so many more people experienced it and it truly makes you appreciate what they went through (and your life today!). I read the first edition of this and was very happy to find out that this second edition had additional new information. It's always fun to see beautiful huge houses and imagine living in them. When you visit the Tenement museum you get to imagine life as so many more people experienced it and it truly makes you appreciate what they went through (and your life today!).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rita

    This is a food journey for families in one building. I learned a lot about the history of food in this country and the history of immigrants in New York. My grandparents came to US in the time covered in this book. I imagine the food and events in the book were similar to their experiences.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I enjoyed this book a lot. It had the potential to be dry and dull, but it was actually very interesting. I appreciated all of the diagrams and blueprints that helped me visualize what life was like in a tenement. If you haven't visited the Tenement Museum, you should definitely go! I enjoyed this book a lot. It had the potential to be dry and dull, but it was actually very interesting. I appreciated all of the diagrams and blueprints that helped me visualize what life was like in a tenement. If you haven't visited the Tenement Museum, you should definitely go!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Carly

    Ok--- the author of this book is my teacher, but he also is one of the best NYC historians around. He keeps things lively in all of his writings and I would suggest that anyone interested in architectural and social histories of NYC take a moment to read his books.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    I support independent bookstores. You can use this link to find one near you: http://www.indiebound.org I support independent bookstores. You can use this link to find one near you: http://www.indiebound.org

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    Accessible historical study of culture and architecture of one of the iconic tenement houses of NYC.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Excellent sections on the history of indoor/outdoor plumbing and key tenement housing Acts. I read the book first, then took a tour of the tenement house museum -- the book was much better.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    A quick fun read (if you're into house history...) - great graphics and photos...i love this museum. A quick fun read (if you're into house history...) - great graphics and photos...i love this museum.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Pam

  19. 4 out of 5

    Barkelby

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  21. 4 out of 5

    Desiree Smelcer

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Hodgson

  24. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Siemann

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katie Scarlett

  26. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Heather McKay Guillemot

  28. 5 out of 5

    Abby

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

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