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Monday, January 18, 2010

Orchards and Tenements

I have written about many merchants located on the Lower East Side, but I have not focused on Orchard Street - the central artery of the neighborhood running one way for eight blocks between Division and Houston Streets. The street is named for the dirt road that once connected the house of Lt. Gov. James De Lancey with the orchard on his 340-acre farm.

The neighborhood was first settled in the mid-1800s, was known as Kleindeutschland (Little Germany), and later became a Jewish enclave.
The street, lined with low-rise tenement buildings with exterior fire escapes, typical of the area, has more recently been best known as a discount shopping district. Blue laws (repealed in the 1970s) prohibited Sunday shopping nearly everywhere in New York City, but, owing to the predominantly Jewish population, Orchard Street was given an exemption since they were closed on Saturday for the Sabbath, giving a virtual monopoly for Sunday shoppers.

Some shops are still closed Saturday. On Sunday, the street is closed to vehicular traffic between Delancey and Houston Streets, transforming the blocks into a pedestrian mall. There is still a bustle of activity, with shops specializing in clothing, shoes, leather goods, fabrics, jewelry, and luggage, intermingled with newer shops, restaurants, boutiques, and bars.

Orchard Street is home to a very unique dwelling. The building located at 97 Orchard, built in 1863, was boarded up in 1935 and unoccupied thereafter. In 1988,  it became part of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. This building is a virtual time capsule and a must-see - it is an opportunity to see the city living conditions of a century ago virtually intact.

Orchard Street and the Lower East Side has been an area in transition, with numerous new trendy shops and upscale residences. Some have argued, however, that this has not been a classic case of gentrification, with older businesses being displaced - the area has been in decline for some time, and the newer merchants have been welcomed, even by many older residents.

The Tenement Museum is conveniently located next door to the superb il Laboratorio del Gelato (95 Orchard). See you there :)

Related Posts: Crossing Delancey, Go for a ride?, Sunshine Makes You Happy, Economy Candy, Eldridge Street, Doughnuts, Yonah Schimmel, teany, Pickles, Vegan Chic, Bluestockings, Colossal Misbehavior, il Laboratorio del Gelato, Fusion Arts Museum, Arlene's Grocery, Footprints.

Photo Note: The archival black and white photo shows Orchard at Rivington Street, circa 1915.


Chuck Pefley said...

This sounds like a must visit next time I'm in the city. And of course if there is the possibility of gelato ...... well, you get my drift -:)

Liliana Lucki said...




Anonymous said...

..I love that I live only ONE block away from Orchard (on Allen). Yippee! :)