The Tenement Museum, located at 97 Orchard Street, is a must see for anyone visiting the Lower East Side. Built in 1863, this tenement style apartment building served as a residence for approximately 7,000 immigrants from the time it was built all the way into the 1930’s. In an effort to preserve the history of the immigrant experience on the Lower East Side, historian and social activist, Ruth Abram, led a movement to convert this run down building, and in 1992, the Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard Street opened its doors.
The Tenement Museum is located at 103 Orchard Street at the corner of Delancey Street (map).
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You enter through the Visitor Center and Museum Shop. This is where you can purchase tickets and it is also where tours start and end. The wheelchair accessible door to the Visitors Center is located on the Delancey Street side of 103 Orchard. The closest street address is 81 Delancey.
Even if you do not take a museum tour, the Museum Shop is worth a visit. They have a phenomenal selection of books about New York City, including popular history books, beautiful photography books, humor books and cookbooks many related to the immigrant populations of New York City. The gifts and souvenirs are unique, New York themed and reasonably priced. They also offer a special series called Tenement Talks, a regular series of free readings, performances and book release parties.
The Tenement Museum invites visitors to experience the history in three different ways: Inside the Building Tours, Live at the Tenement Tours and Walking Tours of the Neighborhood. The museum offers many tours each day, but tours do sell out so have some flexibility with dates and times. Before purchasing tickets, look over the full array of tours to make sure that it is of interest to you and your group.
Visit the recreated homes of former residents who lived in the building. Your guide will discuss life in that era and help you imagine the experience of the families that lived in 97 Orchard Note: In summer, the inside tours can get very hot – tenements didn’t have air-conditioning and since the museum wants you to have as real an experience as possible, be prepared to sweat.
Meet the Residents Tours
Visit the recreated homes of former residents, but have the extra added feature of having costumed interpreters portraying those residents. These tours are especially good for families with children of all ages. Note that dates are limited for these tours.
Neighborhood Walking Tours
Explore the streets of the Lower East Side streets, while your guide explains how the neighborhood has changed over the decades. (Before you purchase one of these tours, take a look at our Lower East Side Food Tour which covers the same topics and area but is a pay-what-you-wish tour!)
You can purchase tickets online at their website, in-person inside the gift shop or by phone 877-975-3786. When you purchase a tour, you can receive 40% off a second tour of a different kind by using the code WALK at checkout. So if you take a Building Tour, you get 40% off a Walking Tour and vice versa.
Most tours have limited wheelchair accessibility. Call 877-975-3786 for an accessible ticket.
This tour focuses on the family-run stores that operated on the ground floor of the museum. The tour takes you on a journey back in time, from the 1870’s , when it was a German saloon, run by John and Caroline Schneider, to a turn of the 20th century Kosher butchery, to a 1930’s auction house, up to the 1970’s when it was a discount undergarment store. Duration and Building Level: 90 minutes on ground level. *Babies, infants, and children under 6 are not permitted.
Sweatshop Worker’s Tour
This tour brings to life the garment factory experience. You will learn about the Levine family, who ran a garment shop on the third floor in the early 20th century, and the Rogarshevsky family, who were tenants here. Duration and Building Level: One hour on 3rd Floor. *Babies, infants and children under age 6 are not permitted on this tour.
Sweatshop Worker’s Tour and Discussion
This tour gives you additional time inside the Levine and Rogarshevsky experiences. In the second part of this tour, you are encouraged to participate in a discussion and share your experiences, thoughts and family histories with your educator and fellow visitors. Duration and Building Level: Two hours on 3rd Floor. Recommended Ages 12 +
Irish Outsider’s Tour
This tour focuses on the Moores, an Irish immigrant family that lived here in 1869. You will learn how they persevered even while facing intense discrimination. Duration and Building Level: One hour on 4th Floor. Recommended Ages 8+
This tour brings you into what it was like for immigrants to live through economic depressions between 1863 and 1935. Visitors get an inside look at what life was like for the German-Jewish Gumpertz family, and the Italian-Catholic Baldizzi family. Duration and Building Level: One hours on 2nd Floor. Recommended age 8 and up.
Hard Times followed by discussion
In addition to the one hour tour, this experience offers further exploration into the Gumpertz and Baldizzi families. Guests are invited to join in a discussion about topics arising from the tour. Here you’ll get an opportunity to share your experiences and family histories with your tour guide and fellow visitors. Duration and Building Level: Two hours on 2nd Floor. Recommended age 12 and up. *Babies, infants, and children 5 and under are not permitted on this tour
Exploring 97 Orchard * Offered only on Thursdays
This tour takes you on a journey through the building. You’ll get a chance to explore the physical history of 97 Orchard. You’ll learn how legislation and fashion impacted the construction of the buildings and how landlords and tenants played a role in this process. You’ll also learn how urban preservationists and various other experts on housing construction are able to link the changing physical nature of this building with those that lived there. Duration and Building Level: 90 minutes on 1st, 2nd, & 4th Floors. Recommended age 12 and up.
These experiences feature costumed “interpreters” who step into the role of the various actual residents of the building.
Victoria Confino Tour
Visitors meet 14-year-old Victoria Confino, who called 97 Orchard home in 1916. She’ll give you the inside story of what her life was like. Join her as she guides you through her apartment and brings you into her early 20th century world. Guests will get the opportunity to ask her questions about her life, and get her unique perspective on adjusting to life on the Lower East Side. Duration and Building Level: 1 hour on 1st floor. Recommended ages 5 and up. Recommended for visitors with low vision.
Live! At the Tenement *Limited dates
Costumed interpreters become the residents of 97 Orchard Street. This tour gives you the chance to explore multiple apartments in the Tenement Museum. Want to know what it was like to live in this building? This tour really brings you back there. Visitors get to interact with actors portraying members of the Moore (1868), Levine (1898), and Baldizzi (1935) families. Duration and Building Level: 90 minutes on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Floors. Recommended Ages 8and up.
* This tour is only offered on select Sundays in 2017: March 19, May 21, September 17,November 19, December 17. Please check their tour calendar one month prior to purchase tickets.
Tenement Inspectors *Limited dates
This experience takes you back to 1906. On this tour, visitors meet a landlord and a resident. Ever wonder who was responsible for keeping 97 Orchard safe and healthy? This tour gives you a close-up and personal look into that world! Duration and Building Level: 90 minutes on 1st Floor. Recommended Ages 8 and up.
*This tour is only available on select Sundays in 2017: February 26, April 16, June 18, July 16, August 20, October 15,
Please check their tour calendar six weeks prior to purchase tickets.
Buildings on the Lower East Side
This tour features an exploration of the buildings in the neighborhood. You’ll learn about the history of buildings, about the architects, artists and ordinary people who played a part in the construction. This tour does not enter any buildings. 2 Hours long. Recommended Ages 8 and up.
Outside the Home
Experience the area from the perspective of immigrants who have called the Lower East Side home for 150 years. Stops on this tour include the Jarmulowsky Bank building, Daily Forward building, and PS 42. This tour does not enter any buildings. 90 minutes long. Recommended Ages 8 and up.
Then and Now
This tour gives you an inside look at how locals over the past century have battled to hold onto their neighborhood in the face of drastic political and economic shifts. This tour does not enter any buildings. 2 Hours. Recommended Ages 8 and up.
Foods of the Lower East Side
The Tenement Museum guide leads you through the neighborhood with stops along the way to sample a variety of local treats. You’ll learn how immigrant foods have influenced the American diet. 2 hours long. Recommended Ages 8 and up.
Tastings at the Tenement *Only offered Thursday’s at 6:30 pm
Sample a variety of treats from the area, and explore how immigrant culture influenced the American diet. The tour begins with a visit to 97 Orchard Street and continues with a sit-down tasting in our private dining room overlooking Delancey Street. Duration and Building Level: 90 minutes in private dining area. Recommended age 8 and up. * This tour is air conditioned
The Tenement Museum has a very good 4.5 star TripAdvisor rating.
Overall, guests have been very pleased with their experiences. Many reviews point out how fascinating and interesting the inside of the 97 Orchard tenement apartment building is. Guests have been mostly pleased by the guides and the content of all the tours. Guests seem to also love the gift shop, which offers a great selection of books and many other New York City related items.
Although a minority, there are some negative reviews. The most frequent complaint is that the tours are too expensive. Guests have complained that the content of the tours, the delivery, and the quality of the guides is not worth what they paid. A few reviewers have written that they felt that the guides were talking down to them as if they were children and that the content was not particularly interesting, educational, or informative. There have also been complaints about guest participation being unnecessary. Some guests have also complained that tours are too long.