The Tenement Museum

On Manhattan’s Lower East Side you can visit a haunting re-creation of a life that was at once harder and better than we remember

For many immigrants, moving to a new country is in ways like becoming a child again. Like children, they have few connections outside of their immediate families; some cannot speak the language well and are assumed to be ignorant and mute; they may have few skills or few ways to apply those skills. And like children, they feel strongly the pain of loneliness. The vast majority of American immigrant families, whether they came here in 1790 or 1990, have known this loneliness, but their descendants don’t know what that feels like.

 
 
 
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III. They’re Still There

The great buildings of the 1920s are standing all over Manhattan, preserving in masonry the swank and swagger of an exuberant era.

New York rebuilt itself in the twenties. The most anarchic, self-regarding, self-proclaiming city of them all achieved its new self by an astounding vertical leap that thrilled, disordered, delighted, and terrified the critics who tried to take its measure. Since then Manhattan has suffered at least three origins of demolition, but many of the classics of that barely believable era remain — almost a miracle in a city where the concrete never sets. Read more »

When They Built The Big Bridge

John Roebling lost his life and his son lost his health, but after sixteen years the incredible Brooklyn Bridge was finished

People living in Brooklyn in the 1870’s were able to boast that their home town was the third largest, fastest growing city in the United States, but they had one major daily headache—getting to work in New York. For, they were dependent upon the terries; and the ferries, delightful though they could be, were in turn dependent upon the weather, fee, log, and wind played merry hob with their schedules, and exasperated commuters talked longingly of the time when completion of the Fast River Bridge would bring their troubles to an end.

 
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