A century ago, the Lower East Side of Manhattan was known as Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany. New York was so populated by German immigrants that is was the third largest German-speaking city on the planet.
The Lower East Tenement Museum’s newest tour, Shop Life, looks at commercial spaces that were once in the historic structure, 97 Orchard street. The new exhibit will feature a fully restored, German beer hall, run by two of 97 Orchard’s residents, John and Caroline Schneider.
On April 3rd, visitors got a behind the scenes look at the upcoming restoration, which opens in fall of 2012. I gave a talk with Dr. Annie Polland, Director of Education for the museum, about the ins and outs of tavern life in 1860’s New York. We spoke from the perspective of Caroline, tenement housewife, mother, and business partner to her husband: as the saloon owner’s wife, what was her day like? And how did she accomplish the monumental task of preparing food for her family, and the saloon’s patrons, in her tenement kitchen?
For more on German food and life in 1860s New York, watch the video above, a live recording of the talk. It begins with Dr. Polland and you’ll see me presenting foodways in the second half. My section starts at 28 minutes in, and turn up you audio because it’s quite low in the recording.