I have always been fascinated by history and I like to read about the old days. The Tenement Museum focuses on a fascinating time in New York history and, given my love for the city and interest in the past, it is one of my favorite museums anywhere.
The Museum is housed in 97 Orchard Street, a landmark building built in 1867 that was home to nearly 7,000 working-class immigrants. It documents the lives of generations of these immigrants — how they arrived here and made lives for themselves and their families. Think how brave they must have been, setting off in a boat for a three week voyage, carrying all their belongings, to a land where a different language was spoken, to start a whole new life!
This city has been diverse, and welcoming, since the 17th century, when it was a Dutch colony was called “New Amsterdam”. In the 19th century, many immigrants settled in the Lower East Side near 97 Orchard Street when they arrived in America. There are people from all over the world in New York, and I think this has made it so much easier for us as "new immigrants” to settle in and feel at home. New York has been central to the story of immigration in America and immigration has been central to the story of America itself, playing a profound role in the country’s evolving identity.
The Museum has tours of different tenements within, detailing immigrant life in different eras and from different nationalities, as well as a reenactment for kids called “Victoria Confino” with actors in costume. These bring the immigrants' stories to life and make them seem very real to the visitor. (Americans seem to be very good at this sort of thing and I think we Europeans can learn something from them in this.) There is also a historical walking tour of the Lower East Side neighborhood. The history here still feels very alive as the neighborhood retains the ambience of old New York.
Near the Tenement Museum is one of my favorite restaurants in New York, The Fat Radish. It was among the first restaurants I visited when I came to New York and I have been back many times. One time I was even lucky enough to sit next to Swedish-American actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
For this lunch, I was even more lucky because my husband, Jens, was able to leave his office for a little while and join Brian and me. Jens had the burger which is consistently ranked among the best in New York, while Brian had the monkfish special and I had the vegetable curry. We were all very happy but Brian was the happiest, perhaps because he also had a glass of wine!
Moscot is another Lower East Side establishment that can trace its roots far back as this year they are celebrating their 100th anniversary. The fact that the brand is so old, together with the superb craftsmanship and great designs, make their glasses very trendy. Now, after a century of selling glasses to New Yorkers, they are selling glasses to people from Copenhagen as Jens and my visiting father were very happy to buy glasses there.
If you stop by Moscot, look for Frank. He has been working at Moscot for over 40 years and he’ll be very happy to help you!