Today we went on a fabulous homeschool group trip to the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. 97 Orchard Street is a tenement apartment building built in 1863 and was home to about 7000 families until 1935. These were immigrant families that had come to America through Ellis Island. They came from Russia, Poland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, etc. Our tour today was the 3-room apartment once lived in by the Confino family. An actress portraying Victoria Confino showed us around the apartment, told us all about how life was then, and answered our many questions. She was a Sephardic Jew from Turkey (then it was still the Ottoman Empire) and there were 10 people in her family all living in those 3 rooms. It was so fascinating to see the brilliant use of space and to hear how there was still so much joy even though it was harsh times. The rooms are kept just as they were almost 100 years ago - with many of the same pieces of furniture, cooking utensils, and wallpaper. It was like going back in time. The museum has other tours based on some of the other real families who lived in the building.
We learned how much of the food they ate was bought from the street pushcarts. The Kosher food was bought in the grocery stores. The girls in Victoria's family didn't go to school after 6th ot 7th grade and a husband was chosen for them around the age of 16. Fun was had at the dance halls where Victoria had recently learned the foxtrot and she even played us a record on her victrolla.
I had been meaning to get to the Tenement Museum for years. It was as great as I thought. I think the kids really had fun and I'm sure they learned a lot. W got a book today called "Peppe the Lamplighter" which is about an Italian family who lives in a tenement in Little Italy. It's for his book club next week. I'm so loving this topic because my grandmother was one of 13 kids living in Manhattan around the time of the Depression. Now I have to find out where and how they lived.