97 Orchard Street, New York: Stories Of Immigrant Life

Overview

Imagine growing up on Orchard Street in 1916. If you were a member of the large Confino family you’d be living in 325 square feet of space. The only fresh air and natural light would come from the two windows in the front room. No heat, no water, no bathtub, no shower. Toilet in the hall.

The Confinos’ apartment is only one part of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, an extraordinary facility in New York City. The Museum has restored 97 Orchard Street to provide us with an ...

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Overview

Imagine growing up on Orchard Street in 1916. If you were a member of the large Confino family you’d be living in 325 square feet of space. The only fresh air and natural light would come from the two windows in the front room. No heat, no water, no bathtub, no shower. Toilet in the hall.

The Confinos’ apartment is only one part of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, an extraordinary facility in New York City. The Museum has restored 97 Orchard Street to provide us with an opportunity to understand the immigrant experience shared by millions who have come to North America.

In text and with archival photos, Linda Granfield tells the story of four families, including the Confinos, who called 97 Orchard Street home, and provides information about the period, the history of the house, and the neighborhood, bringing to life conditions that were familiar to immigrants in many of North America’s big cities. The stories and archival materials are beautifully complemented by Arlene Alda’s sensitive photographs that evoke the hardship, the dignity, and the hope encompassed in 97 Orchard Street.

The book includes useful facts, information about the Museum and its efforts to help new immigrants who share similar experiences. Whether or not the reader can visit the Museum itself, this book is a valuable resource in understanding our own histories in North America.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Chock-full of the simple details of everyday life as well as larger tales of human joy and suffering, this volume presents an intriguing window into urban tenements just before and after the turn of the century.”
School Library Journal

“Alda’s contemporary photos add a beautiful artistic note…The flavor of life on Orchard Street from the end of the nineteenth century through the 1930s can be tasted here.”
Booklist

“Right away Granfield gives her readers sensory images to latch onto. And the photographs further engage us: when we see photos of the tiny rooms, the beds doubling as sofas, the squalid toilets...we can much more easily imagine what it was like to live there in that time.”
Quill & Quire

“This non-fiction book is a great starting point for any social studies or history project…97 Orchard provides a lot of information without being encyclopedic in tone or presentation.”
Florida Times

“…[a] wonderful resource guide…Researched and presented with the quality we’ve come to expect in a Granfield title, this is a winning resource for students studying the history of immigration to the New World, ethnic cultures, or turn-of-the century lifestyles.”
Rockliffe Reviews

“The slim, delightful volume of the stories of four immigrant families who settled in a dark tenement building on New York’s Lower East Side humanizes the struggles and triumphs of those families…Kudos to the museum and to this book that offers a look back on our collective ancestors.”
Kliatt

Publishers Weekly
Guided by the stories of four families known to live in the titular tenement, author Linda Granfield provides an illuminating look at life at the turn of the century and beyond in 97 Orchard Street, New York: Stories of Immigrant Life. Arlene Alda's sensitive b&w photographs of the building, which has been preserved as the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, share space with historical images and artifacts from the museum's collection, as well as photographs of the neighborhood today. ( Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
This slim, delightful volume of the stories of four immigrant families who settled in a dark tenement building on New York's Lower East Side humanizes the struggles and triumphs of those families while reflecting on the shared experiences of all immigrants who come to America seeking a new life. Generously illustrated with old photographs, drawings, political cartoons, maps, floor plans, advertisements, and other ephemera, this companion volume to exhibits at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum offers an intense experience that echoes the museum's guided tours. Although aimed at a young audience, the clearly written narratives and captions are far from condescending and will appeal to readers of all ages. Backed by historical information about the Lower East Side—Orchard Street, for example, was originally a dirt road that led to an orchard on Lieutenant-Governor James De Launcey's 18th-century farm—the book details the lives of the Gumpertz family who came from Prussia in the 1870s, the Confino family of Sephardic Jews who immigrated to New York from Greece in 1914, the Rogarshevsky family who emigrated from Lithuania in 1901, and the Baldizzi family who came to America from Sicily in 1924. Their stories are not romanticized; rather, the reader sees and feels the hardships and trials the succession of new immigrants endured on their journey to a better life. The final page of text discusses the founding of the museum and its educational outreach programs to the current immigrant community. Kudos to the museum and to this book that offers a look back on our collective ancestors. Category: History & Geography. KLIATT Codes: JSA*—Exceptional book, recommended forjunior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Tundra Books, 56p. illus., $15.00. Ages 13 to adult. Reviewer: Rhonda Cooper; Dir., Univ. Art Gallery, Stony Brook, NY SOURCE: KLIATT, March 2002 (Vol. 36, No. 2)
Children's Literature
The life story of one tenement house in New York City's Lower East Side is the focus of this book, written under the auspices of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which now occupies the site. Historical information about immigration and tenement life is interspersed with brief portraits of four of the families who occupied 97 Orchard Street over the years. Generously illustrated with historical photographs, newspaper illustrations, and other documents, primarily from the collections of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the book also brings the building and the era to life with Alda's black-and-white photographs of the museum's refurbished tenement apartment rooms. Although the lack of a table of contents, index or bibliography make the book unsuitable for research and writing projects, it has strong regional interest and provides a good "slice of life" account that will fit in well with curriculum units about immigration or New York history. 2001, Tundra Books, $15.00. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Norah Piehl
VOYA
Written and published for the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York, this thin volume's clear text and historical photographs portray the heartache, hard work, hardship, and hope that characterized tenement life in the Lower East Side for nineteenth- and early twentieth-century immigrants. Beginning with the story of the Gumpertz family, which struggled to survive after husband and father deserted it, Granfield describes the area's geographical and historical evolution that the 97 Orchard Street tenement epitomized. Each family and neighborhood story, told for the most part through picture captions, highlights a tenement neighborhood's characteristics:overcrowding, disease, danger, upward mobility, child labor, education, fastidious housekeeping, and constant change. Wilton Tifft's Ellis Island (Contemporary Books, 1990), with a similar photo-essay format, points out that the immigrant's journey was hopeful as well as arduous. Granfield emphasizes this same combination as she describes tenement dwellers developing independent businesses and new family structures while cramped into an architectural form built to accommodate large numbers and small wages. The cover and title probably will not attract young adults, but this nonfiction account used in conjunction with historical fiction such as Kathleen Karr's The Boxer (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2000/VOYA October 2000) will increase a young reader's understanding and appreciation of immigrant struggle and triumph. Illus. Photos. Maps. VOYA CODES:5Q 2P M J S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written;For the YA with a special interest in the subject;Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8;Junior High, defined as grades 7 to9;Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12;Adult and Young Adult). 2001, Tundra/McClelland & Stewart, 57p, $15. Ages 11 to Adult. Reviewer:Lucy Schall—VOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-The Lower East Side Tenement Museum opened in New York City in 1994. "Urban archeology," "diligent research," and "interviews with former residents" facilitated the re-creation of this building that housed immigrants from the mid-1800s to its closing in 1935. Essentially a photo-essay of material from the museum, the text is divided into 13 brief sections beginning with "Mystery: The Gumpertz Family." Readers learn that "Julius Gumpertz walked out of the building-on a crisp October morning in 1874" never to be heard from again. Working as a seamstress, his wife managed to support her four young children, one of whom "died of diarrhea, an all-too-common fate for nineteenth-century infants." Each black-and-white photograph is accompanied by a detailed caption. Other sections introduce three more families and also tell their stories through artifacts and oral histories. Additional segments such as "Early Immigration" and "Ellis Island: Portal of Hope" deal with more general aspects of immigration at that time. Chock-full of the simple details of everyday life as well as larger tales of human joy and suffering, this volume presents an intriguing window into urban tenements just before and after the turn of the century. Be aware that there is no table of contents, no index, and the information presented does not follow a simple time line. However, the book is a useful addition to general collections, especially as a starting point for further investigation.-Alicia Eames, New York City Public Schools Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
At one time, the Lower East Side of New York City was said to have greater population density than any other city on earth. It was here, 97 Orchard Street, a five-story walk-up tenement built by German immigrant Lucas Glockner in 1864, that generations of immigrants settled. The place has been preserved since owners in 1935 closed it down to avoid bringing it up to housing code. Now it is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, open for guided tours, providing glimpses into the crowded and uncomfortable condition of the tenants who came from many nations but all of whom were poor. The lives of those people and the history of the house and the area have been traced by historians working for the museum. Granfield provides necessary backgrounds to introduce each section with lengthy captions accompanying contemporary b&w photographs, as well as archival ones, maps, and portraits of the area creating a picture of the house, its tenants, and its neighborhood. At times, the author imagines conversations between people long gone and who surely left no record of these talks. Identifying dates of photos in the captions would have strengthened this considerably. The reader who needs more information will have to look elsewhere. (For instance, the word "steerage" is poorly explained and there is no mention of who protected the newcomers or that the tenants had to provide their own stoves.) A stronger, more complete text would provide more sympathy and understanding of the difficult lives for poor people, most of whom were newly arrived in the US. But many will find the biographies of their grandparents and great-grandparents in this study. (Nonfiction. 9-11)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780887765803
  • Publisher: Tundra
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Pages: 56
  • Sales rank: 435,260
  • Age range: 3 months - 18 years
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 10.52 (h) x 0.17 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Granfield is the author of over 15 non-fiction titles for young readers which are very popular with adult readers as well. Granfield’s writings bring history to life with such works as In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae, Pier 21: Gateway of Hope and the acclaimed Amazing Grace: The Story of the Hymn. Linda Granfield lives in Toronto.

Arlene Alda is an award winning photographer and writer whose work has appeared in Life, Vogue, and People magazines and in numerous galleries. Her books for children include Sheep, Sheep, Sheep, Help Me Fall Asleep, Arlene Alda’s 1,2,3, and Hurry Granny Annie. A native New Yorker, Arlene Alda and her husband, actor Alan Alda, divide their time between New York and California.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2002

    A picture is worth a thousand words

    The photographs are stark and telling. The stories compliment the images. The struggle of the immigrant is apparent in the stories but doubly so in the pictures. I found the text and pictures a perfect springboard into conversations with my students about the hardship and experience of immigrants. A fine portrait of the immigrant experience.

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