Tenement Museum - Under One Roof


Under One Roof

1. What is Tenement Museum?

· Established in 1988 and with the hub of two historic tenements on Orchard Street in NYC’s Lower East Side, the Tenement Museum tells the story of American immigration through the personal accounts of immigrant families

  • (Tenement Museum)

2. What is the exhibit about?

  • Opened in September, 2017, Under One Roof “ is the first permanent exhibit of the museum highlighting real-stories of modern-era immigrant, refugee, and migrant families;

· Based on oral histories of living family members, the exhibit tells the stories of three immigrant and migrant families during the 1950s to 1970s: the Epstein family, Polish refugees and Holocaust survivors; the Saez-Velez family, Puerto Rican migrants; and the Wong family, Chinese immigrants

(the Epstein family: Regina and Kalman Epstein)

(the Saez-Velez family: Ramonita with Jennie and Andrea)

(the Wong family: Mr and Mrs Wong)

· The three families all lived in the same apartment building at 103 Orchard Street in NYC’s Lower East Side, which housed an estimated 15,000 people from more than 20 nations between 1863 and 2000;

· The guided tour takes visitors through an apartment that has been subdivided into three sections. The first section recreates the Epstein home in the late-1950s; the second section features the Saez-Velez family home in the late-1970s; and the third section recreates the Wong family home in late-1970s. Since each family had one parent who worked in the Lower East Side’s garment industry, the 90-minute tour concludes in a recreated garment shop.

  • (the Epstein family bedroom)

(the Saez-Velez family living room)

(the Wong family bedroom)

  • (the Garment Shop)

3. Why this exhibit is relevant to immigration?

· This exhibit tells about the first urban immigration story ever happened in American history;

  • (the Saez –Velez family living room window with urban views outside)

· Many visitors might think the early immigrants went through great hardships living under 103 Orchard Street residence during that time. However, the Chinese immigrants were actually pleased to live “under one roof”. This is because first the residence was offered with fairly cheap price. Second the particular door-to-door structure of the building was very similar to Chinese neighborhood. It bound up people together, creating a nest for social networking and information exchange which were especially previous to Chinese when they were outside their own country;

(the Wong family: Mrs Wong and daughter Yat Ping – at graduation ceremony)

· Chinese visitors will take away with them these two main points from the exhibit: 1. As America is a country built up by immigrants all over the world, this is the true story of America itself, not merely a story of immigrant families; 2. Nor is it a story of the past. It is an account of whoever is now living in America. If those immigrants succeeded in the past, every immigrant in America today can succeed as well. Among all the American immigrants, the question is not whether to succeed, but who to succeed.

4. The connection with Squirrel NYC

· Squirrels are actually not home to NYC. The Great Squirrel Migration in 1970s witnessed millions of squirrels swimming across the Connecticut River and other bodies of waters and settled down in NYC ever since then;

· Squirrel NYC, naming after this immigration legend of the squirrels, is a newly established Chinese WeChat lifestyle platform Chinese immigrants living in NYC

About The Author

SquirrelNYC SquirrelNYC is a New York resident who has a furry tail. It is the one-stop portal for information on New York mainly in Simplified Chinese. It is dedicated to provide readers the latest city news, dining recommendations, leisure, events, and other aspects of a New Yorker life.

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