Imagine growing up on Orchard Street in 1916. If you were a member of the large Confino family you’d be living in 325 square feet of space. The only fresh air and natural light would come from the two windows in the front room. No heat, no water, no bathtub, no shower. Toilet in the hall.
The Confinos’ apartment is only one part of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, an extraordinary facility in New York City. The Museum has restored 97 Orchard Street to provide us with an opportunity to understand the immigrant experience shared by millions who have come to North America.
In text and with archival photos, Linda Granfield tells the story of four families, including the Confinos, who called 97 Orchard Street home, and provides information about the period, the history of the house, and the neighborhood, bringing to life conditions that were familiar to immigrants in many of North America’s big cities. The stories and archival materials are beautifully complemented by Arlene Alda’s sensitive photographs that evoke the hardship, the dignity, and the hope encompassed in 97 Orchard Street.
The book includes useful facts, information about the Museum and its efforts to help new immigrants who share similar experiences. Whether or not the reader can visit the Museum itself, this book is a valuable resource in understanding our own histories in North America.
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