The Tenement Restoration

97 Orchard Street was completely boarded up from 1935 through 1987. When the building was finally opened, everything found inside was exactly as it had been left when the tenement was sealed. During the recent restoration, over 1,500 artifacts were found in the building, including kitchenware, toys, cosmetic products, documents, soda, medicinal and milk bottles, letters, newspapers, bottons, old coins, fabric scraps, etc. Many of these objects were actually found underneath the floorboards and inside mailboxes.

In the summer of 1993, the Tenement Museum conducted an archaeological dig in the courtyard searching for evidence of "school sinks"(toilets). In the process, an old German pipe, part of a chamber pot, a watch face, and many other objects were unearthed.

Work to bring the first three floors into compliance with New York City's building codes was completed in January, 1994. The Museum then opened to the public, conducting "The Spirits of 97 Orchard" tours of the unrestored residential apartments. In October, 1994, the first two historic apartments were opened to the public. These depict two immigrant families - the German Jewish Gumpertzes and the Italian Catholic Baldizzi's, who actually lived in the building in the 1870's and 1930's respectively.

The next focal points for the restoration are the tenement building's entryway and its courtyard. The entryway features lincrusta wallpaper, tin ceilings, tiled floors and painted medallions, which will be restored and interpreted, as will the courtyard privies.

Plans for below the stoop and first floor storefronts of the tenement include the restoration of "Schneider's," a 19th century German beer saloon, and "Professor Dora Meltzer's Palmistry Studio," which existed in the first floor back room at the turn-of-the-century and operated seven days a week from 9am to 10pm.