The Lower East Side is one of the most important neighborhoods in America, with a rich history as dense as its former living quarters. Thousands of immigrants experienced American life on these many crowded streets. In this podcast, we look at this extraordinary cultural phenomenon through the lens of one of those -- Orchard Street.
Its name traces itself to a literal orchard, owned by a wealthy landowner and Loyalist during the Revolutionary War. By the 1840s the former orchard and farm was divided up into lots, and a brand new form of housing -- the tenement -- served new Irish and German communities who had just arrived in the United States.
A few decades later those residents were replaced by Russian and Eastern European newcomers, brought to the neighborhood due to its affordability and its established Jewish character.
Living conditions were poor and most tenement apartment doubled as workspaces. Meanwhile, in the streets, tight conditions required a unique retail solution -- the push cart, a form of independent enterprise that has given us some businesses that still thrive on Orchard Street today.
You can see this century-old life along Orchard Street today, if you know where to look. Luckily that's what we're here for! With some help from Adam Steinberg at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, where the best place to interact with a preserved view of the old days.
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Direct download: 183_Orchard_Street.mp3
-- posted at: 12:22am EDT