|Foods of New York tour guides listen to our Shop Life guide, Annie.|
|Photos via the Tenement Museum|
Many of the tenements featured storefronts on the first floors. The tour featured 97 Orchard Street, which was most notably home to a German lager saloon, a kosher butcher shop, a Depression-era auction house, and a hosiery store in its 100+ year history, among many other uses. We explored whether a shop shapes a community or vice versa (our conclusion: it’s both) while learning about the many tenants of the space.
One of the coolest things we learned on the tour was about rats. Most New Yorkers, understandably, despise rats and their presence. But historians have a different perspective: rats building nests pull little bits of history into the walls and, in the process, preserve them. The photo above features a piece of a German-language newspaper — from the 19th Century when the Lower East Side was Kleindeutschland (Little Germany) — and a doll’s head recovered from creases in the fireplace and the walls. These little tidbits sometimes give historians far more than they would have gleaned otherwise. Thanks, rats!