Visiting New Orleans? Six Ideas for What to Bring Home.

If you want cheap, mass produced Mardi Gras masks or just another t-shirt, walk one block down Bourbon Street in either direction, and you’ll be set. On the other hand, if you are looking for the best souvenirs in New Orleans – you want something truly special to remember your visit, here are some things that will make you think about the Crescent City every time you see them.[…]

St. Louis Cathedral in early morning fog.
St. Louis Cathedral in early morning fog. Photograph, Ann Fisher

If you want cheap, mass produced Mardi Gras masks or just another t-shirt, walk one block down Bourbon Street in either direction, and you’ll be set.

New Orleans is a unique city, so it just follows that you’ll want something special to remember your visit. Here are souvenirs that will make you think about the Crescent City every time you see them.

Faulkner House Books sign
Faulkner House Books in Pirate’s Alley has a great collection of books. I bring home at least one every time I visit New Orleans. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Faulkner House Books

This is one of my favorite small bookstores in the whole country. It’s tucked next to the St. Louis Cathedral on Pirate’s Alley, in the house where William Faulkner lived during his time in New Orleans.

The thing that makes this bookstore special is a curated selection of books, often in particularly nice editions.

What do I mean when I say this? Any of the classics — works by Faulkner, Austen, Hemingway, Cather, Dickens — pick your author — are available in multiple editions. Too often these great novels are available in the cheapest editions: nasty paper, poorly printed, with almost no white space — you know what I’m talking about. Inexpensive books — so that at least a student can afford to read them for a class. But these are NOT the editions I want in my personal library.

Faulkner House does a great job of finding and stocking classics in editions that are such a pleasure to hold, to read. They have both new books and collectible used books. I also always find they have a wonderful selection of new fiction, as well as poetry, and essays. Of course the store keeps a full selection of Faulkner’s work, in both new editions and valuable first editions.

You’ll find their web site here: Faulkner House Books: A Sanctuary for Fine Literature.

My daughter Catherine browsing a selection of books at Faulkner House.
My daughter Catherine browsing a selection of books at Faulkner House.
Photograph of a book of New Orleans sketches by William Faulkner
One of my favorite things to do in New Orleans: buy a book from Faulkner House, then go have a coffee or a drink, read, watch people, and write.

Excerpt from Sketches of New Orleans by William Faulkner:

The Tourist -NEW ORLEANS.

A courtesan, not old and yet no longer young, who shuns the sunlight that the illusion of her former glory be preserved. The mirrors in her house are dim and the frames are tarnished; all her house is dim and beautiful with age. She reclines gracefully upon a dull brocaded chaise-longue, there is the scent of incense about her, and her draperies are arranged in formal folds. She lives in an atmosphere of a bygone and more gracious age.

And those whom she receives are few in number, and they come to her through an eternal twilight. She does not talk much herself, yet she seems to dominate the conversation, which is low-toned but never dull, artificial but not brilliant. And those who are not of the elect must stand forever without her portals.

New Orleans . . . a courtesan whose hold is strong upon the mature, to whose charm the young must respond. And all who leave her, seeking the virgin’s un-brown, ungold hair and her blanched and icy breast where no lover has died, return to her when she smiles across her languid fan . . . New Orleans.

Jose Balli necklace, sterling silver and freshwater pearls
My souvenir from New Orleans on the last visit – a Jose Balli necklace, sterling silver and freshwater pearls. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Jose Balli Jewelry

I love this jewelry collection!

Jeweler Jose Balli uses the lost wax method to create his intricate pieces – inventive designs inspired by themes unique to New Orleans and southern Louisiana. This is lovely work in sterling silver at fair prices.

You’ll find little crabs in a variety of forms, alligators that loop themselves over sterling silver chains, and pendants of stylized Spanish moss. It was difficult to pick just one piece. I finally chose the Oyster Heart pearl necklace — the thing that first caught my eye when I was walking along Chartres Street.

Tiny sterling silver crabs in a variety of designs.
Tiny sterling silver crabs in a variety of designs. Jose Balli Jewelry on Chartres Street in the French Quarter. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Initially, Balli “worked in a metal fabrication shop just out of high school, shaping and welding custom equipment for the oil industry. One day, while waiting for a machine to cut through an enormous pipe, he passed time by carving a tiny alligator from a scrap of soapstone. Coworkers encouraged him to take up art seriously and, thus, began Jose’s 27-year career creating Bayou State designs with a naturalistic appeal.”

When we were in New Orleans the last time with good friends from Houston — all of us came away with jewelry from Balli.

I’ll definitely return to his shop at 621 Chartres Street the next time I’m in NOLA.

Jose Balli's shop on Chartres Street in the French Quarter, just steps away from Jackson Square.
Jose Balli’s shop on Chartres Street in the French Quarter, just steps away from Jackson Square.
Hove Parfumeur Sign
Hove Parfumeur is truly a New Orleans original. The family-owned business has been making perfumes since 1931. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Hové Parfumeur

I’ve shopped at Hové for years. Readers who have followed my blog may remember my story of Clint Bolton, the old journalist who lived in the Quarter (To Miss New Orleans). Clint took me into the Hové shop in 1979 — to buy his wife’s favorite perfume — Tea Olive. I can still see Pat Bolton anytime I smell the fragrance.

Mrs. Alvin Hovey-King started Hové in 1931. She learned the craft of making perfume from her French Creole mother, and as the wife of a Navy Commander, she traveled the world. Her travels afforded her the opportunity to study perfumes in different countries, and her knowledge of making perfume grew.

What started as a hobby grew into a small business, and when the Crash of 1929 ruined the retired Commander’s business, Mrs. Hovey-King opened Hové at 529 Royal Street. The family lived in the apartment over the shop. While Hové has moved several times, it is still owned by the family. It is now located at 434 Chartres.

Hové continues to make all of their classic fragrances, including Tea Olive and Vetivert, but they’ve added many new fragrances in the last twenty years that have greater appeal to modern sensibilities.

Interior of the Hové shop in New Orleans.
The Hové shop on Chartres street.

The fence around Jackson Square

Fleur d’Orleans

Jan Fenner and Thomas Laird have created a collection of jewelry inspired by things unique to New Orleans, such as church murals, the cast iron fence surrounding Jackson Square, and architectural details of buildings in both the Quarter and business district.

The silver pendant to the left is a great example of Fenner’s work. I brought home a pair of earrings of the same design, and have loved wearing them. I also purchased fleur de lis earrings for my sister and my daughter, each different. I think there are more variations of the fleur de lis in this jewelry collection than I’ve seen anywhere.

Fenner and Laird lived in Nepal for a long time, and Jan worked with women there to use their native textiles to create products for sale. Jan talked at length about how much difference it makes when women are able to take control of their finances because they are generating income.

Fleur D'Orleans specializes in sterling jewelry and handmade cards.In addition to the jewelry, you will find textiles from Nepal and hand-printed cards on beautifully textured paper. It’s a treat to visit Fleur d’Orleans just to visit with Jan Fenner, so much so that I went back to the shop twice.

They have two locations, one at 3701A Magazine Street, New Orleans, and then the French Quarter store, which is on the corner of Chartres and Madison Street — half a block from Jackson Square.

Visit the Fleur D’Orleans website for a great overview of what they have to offer, or to place an order online.Sterling silver jewelry collection inspired cast iron and

Save up to $500 when you book your flight +hotel!

Louisiana Loom Works

Ronda Rose has been weaving rugs in the French Quarter since 1997.

Her narrow store on Chartres Street holds three looms, six cats, and the loveliest rag rugs I’ve seen.

Louisiana Loom Works

A Loom Works cat sits ready to greet visitors.

Traditionally, rag rugs were made from worn clothes and sheets, and were a way to get additional use out of fabric. Ronda uses only new material – cotton and cotton blend fabrics, and all of her rugs are made on the premises in her French Quarter shop.

She has many colors and sizes of rug available for immediate purchase, but most of her business is making custom rugs. Send Ronda paint chips, photographs, or fabric swatches and she will work with you to create a rug uniquely suited to your room and decor.

It takes approximately ten to twelve weeks for a custom rug order. Louisiana Loom Works is located at 616 Chartres Street. Hours of operation: 11am- 6pm (Closed Wednesday), Phone: (504) 566-7788

Visit Louisiana Loom Works online.

Stating the obvious here: if you are allergic to cats, you should avoid this shop since the kitties rule the roost :-).

Black cat lounging on a loom
Loom cat in charge. Photograph, Ann Fisher.
Freret Street at Napoleon Avenue for the monthly street fair. Pronounced FUR-ette street.
Freret Street at Napoleon Avenue for the monthly street fair. Pronounced FUR-ette street.

Freret Street Market

If you are lucky enough to be in NOLA on the first Saturday of the month, consider checking out the truly local Freret Street Market. It’s a combination of great music, food booths, booths selling local art and crafts, and flea market offerings. Definitely a place to find the some of the coolest New Orleans souvenirs. Depending on the day, there may also be a local restaurant sharing their food.

Okay, you French speakers out there . . . leave your high-class accent at home. Locals pronounce the word Freret like this: FUR-ette.

Don’t you be sayin’ it like Frere-ay. Ain’t no one gonna know WHAT you talkin’ ’bout.

The Freret Street Market does NOT happen during the steamy summer months of June, July, and August. Any New Orleanian called tell you why. ‘Cause it’s too darn hot! What, are you crazy, baby? Get inside in dat air-conditionin.’

People dancing to live music at the Freret Street Market.
Getting down at the Freret Street Market.

Freret Street Finds: The Cat Nap Company — Purses made from an old albums — front side is the album cover, and the back side is the vinyl LP. No worries — no viable vinyl was killed in the making of this product. Only scratched albums are used.

So, it’s not the first Saturday of the month and you want to find the Cat Nap Company? Go to the Cat Nap Company Facebook page or email simone11@cox.net to place an order.

The Cat Nap Company sells jewelry designed by owner Pam Kirkland Garvin, along with purses made from old albums.

Watercolor of the Carousel bar by artist

My favorite find at the market was artist Nurhan Gokturk — I fell in love with his watercolor, pen and ink work of the Carousel Bar at the Monteleone Hotel. It is a special New Orleans landmark, and his delicate rendition has great movement. You can find Gokturk’s work at Pop City at 3118 Magazine street anytime, or visit the Gokturk web site.

Incidentally, one of Gokturk’s works hangs on the wall at The Spotted Cat, one of the coolest music venues in New Orleans. The Spotted Cat is located at 623 Frenchman Street in the Faubourg Marigny.

So, there you have it. Some ideas for must-have souvenirs from New Orleans that you can also feel good about — created by local people, and not mass-marketed junk from Bourbon Street. And dat’s a good thing :-).

Carousel Bar by Nurthan Gokturk.

This article was originally published in April 2016 – this newest version has been updated with three more shops and ideas for folks traveling to New Orleans in 2017.


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

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Can You Travel If Your ID is Lost?

US Driver's License. Photograph, Hal Bergman - iStock Photos.
US Driver’s License. Photograph, Hal Bergman – iStock Photos.

Your wallet and identification are GONE, and you have a plane to catch. What are you going to do?

My cousin came to visit for a week, and was due to fly home yesterday afternoon. Before we left for an early lunch, Peter discovered that his wallet was missing — the last time we’d seen it was in a restaurant the day before.  After looking, re-checking, re-looking, calling AND visiting the restaurant, we knew the wallet was gone.

Replacing your credit cards and driver’s license is always a hassle — but if you are about to get on a plane, can you still travel? We weren’t sure . . . I didn’t know whether I’d have a house guest for another week while we waited for a replacement driver’s license to get here.

After making some calls, we discovered — if you are a American citizen traveling domestically within the United States, the answer is YES — if the TSA is able to confirm your identity.

Peter’s ticket was with Alaska Airlines, and they printed a boarding pass and checked his bag with only his confirmation code and his ability to answer several questions — but they would not guarantee that TSA would let him fly. We weren’t sure if we would have to go right back to the ticketing counter and cancel his flight.

black and white graphic of airport security checkpoint
Airport security is not fun even at its best. Be sure to bring your patience and best manners if you have lost your picture ID. Image by A-digit, iStock Photo.

If TSA cannot confirm your identity, you will not be allowed through security.

When we got to security, the TSA officer called her supervisor. Peter was passed through security after answering a series of questions and providing a magazine that was sent to his home address.

Things that the TSA asked us for yesterday:

  • Copy of driver’s license and/or passport
  • Prescription medications
  • Mail with your home address on it
  • an expired form of ID with home address

Getting through security took us an extra thirty minutes, so if this happens to you, plan for security to be much longer than normal. Depending on how busy the security checkpoint is, our wait could have been longer. Anticipate this. Be calm. Be polite. Be patient. Realize that they do not have to let you through, so this is not the time to turn into an entitled ass.

This is a great reminder for all of us to be sure to have copies of identification with us when we travel. I always keep a copy of my passport when I travel abroad — but I have to admit, I don’t do it here in the USA. Effective immediately, I’ll add copies of my driver’s license and passport to the list of things I travel with domestically.

This is a link to the TSA blog with their post on Traveling without an ID.

Photograph of US passport on a map.
If your passport is lost or stolen while you are traveling abroad — you will have to get it replaced to be able to travel. Photograph, Michael Quirk, iStock Photo.

Replacing Passports

If you are overseas, you will not be able to travel until you get your passport replaced. You’ll visit the local American embassy or consulate, and work through the process to get a new passport. When you read the following list of required documents, it’s easy to see that a copy of your passport should be number one on your list of things to pack.

“The following list identifies a number of documents/items you should take with you to the embassy/consulate. Even if you are unable to present all of the documents, the consular staff will do their best to assist you to replace your passport quickly.  Please provide:

For citizens of the United Kingdom, here is information for getting an emergency passport replacement.

For my Canadian readers, your emergency passport instructions are here. And Australian citizens will find passport replacement information here.

Last year, I went through replacing my lost passport. I was not traveling, but at home when I discovered my passport was missing — about ten days before my cruise on the Royal Clipper in the Caribbean. I was a panicked mess. The cruise was paid for — and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go. I had a very good experience with the service Rush My Passport; while it was expensive, that passport expediting service did exactly what they advertised. I followed their instructions, FedExed the required forms and materials to them, and I had my replacement passport within the advertised time. I hope NEVER to have to do it again, but it did work.

Peter’s lost wallet is a great opportunity for all of us to improve our travel habits. Be sure to store your passport in a secure place at home. When traveling, bring copies of your driver’s license and passport with you, keeping them separate from your main identification. It’s always smart to keep some cash and one credit card separate as well — because you know, you never know when it will be you.


Ann Cavitt Fisher in Castolon, Texas. Photograph, Jim Stevens.
At Castolon, in Big Bend National Park, Texas. Photograph, Jim Stevens.

About Ann

I grew up in Mississippi and New Orleans, have lived in both Seattle and Manhattan, and finally moved back to Texas in 1990’s.

I have a darling teenage daughter who heads off to university in the fall of 2017. I have been divorced and am now widowed. Finally, I am a colon cancer survivor.

I am now writing and traveling full time — what a wonderful thing!

This website is a forum for many things. I want to talk about life, in all of its rich, wonderful and terrifying forms. I want to share my travels, my thoughts on life, and my experiences as a woman and a mom. I want to talk about the nature of reality and the meaning of life, and to celebrate being alive.

Thanks for coming to visit!


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She’s so hot, Hot, HOT!

Champagne being poured. Photograph: bluefern, iStock by Gettty.It all started when I was having champagne with Captain Darcy.

He was a handsome man, and we had talked many times over the two weeks of the cruise. I was not surprised I’d been invited to the Captain’s dinner. The Captain’s guests gathered for champagne and conversation before dinner, and while I was chatting with the couple from New York, Darcy took the club chair next to me. He touched his glass to mine and smiled.

Then someone turned a propane torch on under my derriere and my core temperature rocketed into the stratosphere.

Vincent Price in The House of Wax.

I looked at the circle of people sitting around me, sipping their wine and talking.

As my makeup began running down my face in rivulets like Vincent Price’s skin in the House of Wax, I thought — they all seem so normalhow are they standing the 900°F temperature change?

I considered going to the bar and asking Reynaldo if I could stick my head into the ice machine.

Instead, I excused myself and went to the restroom to dab my makeup into some semblance of normal.

Yes, it had happened to me. Menopause came calling. Sooner or later it comes for all women.

I was warm-natured already. But oh, dear lord, I had no clue what hot was!

Want to understand what this feels like?

To the guys, sons, daughters, and younger women whose friends, moms, wives, and significant others are going through menopause . . . empathy is such a great thing. Duplicate the experience, and I promise your understanding will improve.

Instructions:   Get seven heating pads, and warm them up to full throttle. Tie the pads around your chest, abdomen, butt/thighs. The seventh is for your head. Sit like that for twenty minutes.

Oh, and this is key. Be sure to pick a really public time to do it — like a boardroom presentation or a business lunch.


Entering the Combat Zone

After a year of suffering with this, I am taking my life back! I’m sporting a new, shorter haircut — I mean, I spent a year with my mane clipped to the back of my head . . . why keep it?

Connie Sherman, owner of Hot Girls Pearls, talks about how she came up with the idea for her product.
Connie Sherman, owner of Hot Girls Pearls, talks about how she came up with the idea for her product.

I’ve found a natural supplement with black cohosh to be helpful. I’m using a product called Estroven, and after about three weeks of taking this it’s helped, I have fewer flashes each day, and they aren’t as extreme. There are many different black cohosh supplements out there, so look to see what seems to suit you.

And yes, I know foregoing coffee and red wine would also help, but there is no way in hell I’m giving up either. You’ll pry my cold, dead fingers off of my coffee cup and my glass of red wine.

Of course it’s not just menopause – people suffer with hot flashes for many reasons including medication side effects, cancer, and auto immune disorders.

There are a number of products on the market that may help combat the discomfort caused by hot flashes.

Connie Sherman describes making a necklace of plastic ice-cubes — then having the idea to make necklaces of cold pearls filled with non-toxic freezable gel. And voila! Hot Girls Pearls were born.

Hallmark Channel’s Home and Family interviews Connie Sherman and displays Hot Girls Pearls here.

Hot Girls Pearls -- frozen pearls for your hottest moments.
Hot Girls Pearls — frozen pearls for your hottest moments.

The pearls are big. I mean REALLY big. They have to be to hold enough cooling gel to stay cold for an hour.

For me this  is a problem because I don’t wear chunky jewelry. The Hot Girls Pearls are so large that I’d feel self-conscious wearing them, but hey — each of us has different preferences here. For women who wear bold statement jewelry, they might be just the ticket.

My first encounter with a cooling scarf was the Austin City Limits festival last the fall. My sister’s good friend, Annette, brought scarves for each of us, and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It was a revelation.

There are many of these on the market, styled for outdoor and exercise activities. Okay, that’s great for canoeing, music festivals, and gardening — but there’s no way I’m wearing one of these when I’m dressed up and in a business meeting or out on the town.

The “fashion” version of the scarves have bandana prints on them. Really? This is fashionable? — What planet do these people live on?  Cue Dueling Banjo music while I’m giving a boardroom presentation.

I found something hopeful when I was searching for better looking cooling scarves- a scarf insert that you can hide inside your own scarves when the sport scarf look just won’t cut it. Secret Scarves is a new product from a female entrepreneur; you can see her demonstrate her scarf insert on the Secret Scarves Facebook page.

I ordered one from Amazon and have tried it out a couple of times. It works, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind here. Since you wrap it it in another, more attractive scarf, the cooling power simply isn’t as strong as the cooling sports scarves. Also — obviously, you should use either a cotton or a polyester scarf since the water will likely stain and ruin your silk scarves.

Changing the type of makeup I use has prevented another House of Wax episode. I’ve switched to a Mac Cosmetics product called Pro Longwear Nourishing Waterproof Foundation which I apply with a flat makeup brush. I’m able to wear it without powder — and it has not sweated off of me. I’m sure there are other similar products in most pro makeup lines.

A tube of Mac Pro Longwear Waterproof Foundation.
Mac Pro Longwear Waterproof Foundation — one option to keep a hotflash from melting your makeup.

Talking about makeup brings up another topic: trying to put the makeup ON after I’m all hot after a shower and blowing my hair dry. Only two things I can say here: time and cold water. Plan enough time in your dressing routine to sit for a minute, drink cold water, and cool down before you start your makeup. Rushing causes stress. Stress triggers hot flashes. This might also be the perfect time to wrap one of those cooling sports scarves around your neck.

The three things that help me the most: drinking cold water, having something to fan myself with, and keeping my sense of humor.

Ladies — here’s to being hot — on OUR terms.

 


Continue the conversation . . .

In the comment section, please share funny flash stories, along with tips and products you’ve found that you think might help the sisterhood out here. Once we get a few tips and product share going, I’ll add a table with the information.


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

About Ann

I grew up in Mississippi and New Orleans, have lived in both Seattle and Manhattan, and finally moved back to Texas in 1990’s.

I have a darling teenage daughter who heads off to university in the fall of 2017. I have been divorced and am now widowed. Finally, I am a colon cancer survivor.

I am now writing and traveling full time — what a wonderful thing!

This website is a forum for many things. I want to talk about life, in all of its rich, wonderful and terrifying forms. I want to share my travels, my thoughts on life, and my experiences as a woman and a mom. I want to talk about the nature of reality and the meaning of life, and to celebrate being alive.

Thank you for visiting! 

I’m writing and traveling full-time now, and if you like my work, please subscribe to my blog via email.


I’m happy you’re here — For other articles on life and travel, browse the home page:

 

Visiting the Tenement Museum

Mulberry Street on New York's Lower East Side, ca. 1900
Mulberry Street on New York’s Lower East Side, ca. 1900.

One of the most fascinating museums in the United States stands at the corner of Delancey and Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of New York City.

Stepping into the Tenement Museum is time travel into the lives of hardworking American immigrant families.

You pick your year. Would you like to see 1873? What about the depression of the 1930’s? Or a visit with an Irish family in the 1860’s, when a common line in employment ads was: Irish Need Not Apply. When you step into 97 Orchard street, you step back into a vital part of American history.

Joseph was off to work.

The coal stove was smoking a bit, but at least the kitchen was warm. Bridget put her hand on the baby’s forehead for a moment, then picked up the pail. Agnes had been sick for days, and was now weak from the dysentery. And it was wash day. She sighed. The weather was too poor to do the laundry outside, and that meant hauling a number of buckets of water up four flights of stairs. She opened the door and nearly ran into Mrs. Stein in the dark hallway.

Moore apartment kitchen, The Tenement Museum.
The Moore Apartment Kitchen. Photograph Courtesy of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum

If you immigrated to New York in the 1860’s, this could have been part of your living experience on the Lower East Side.

Approximately 30 million immigrants entered the U.S. between 1870 and 1930, many of them coming through the port of New York — either to Castle Garden (Castle Clinton), or to Ellis Island which opened in 1892.

The population of New York city exploded — increasing more than 50 times over during the 19th century – going from 79,000 in 1800 to more than 3.4 million by 1900.

The demand for housing was extraordinary.

The nineteenth century answer to this problem?  The American tenement.

They were narrow buildings, 25×100 feet, and in New York, predominantly five or six stories tall. The apartments were normally three, sometimes four rooms, depending on the tenement, and around 350 square feet total. They were crowded and dark, hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and poorly ventilated. There was no indoor plumbing until the early 1900’s.

It’s important to understand that living conditions in the tenements of New York varied dramatically.

The worst of the tenements were horrible — and were documented by Jacob Riis in How the Other Half Lives. However, there was a tendency for social activists of the day to lump all of the tenements together, focusing on the worst to help achieve change.

Of course things aren’t that simple — and understanding this may be one of the great gifts of visiting the Tenement Museum.

Tenement Hallway Lower East Side
The narrow first floor hallway of 97 Orchard Street. The Tenement Act of 1901 required lighting to be installed, but prior to that tenement hallways were dark, lit only from the entryway, skylights, and apartment transoms.  Photograph courtesy of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

From 1863-1935, more than 7,000 people from 20 different countries called 97 Orchard Street home.

The Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side of Manhattan brings this history to life for 220,000 visitors annually, more than visit many of the larger history museums in New York. It is an affiliate of the National Park Service, linked with the immigrant landmarks of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and Castle Garden (Castle Clinton).

97 Orchard Street sign. The first tenement to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
97 Orchard Street. It is the first tenement to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

When I mentioned visiting the Tenement Museum, one of my friends envisioned glass cases with artifacts and dioramas. But it’s not that kind of museum.

The museum did research on residents of 97 Orchard Street, a combination of census data and genealogy, and then information, photographs, and recorded oral history from current families whose parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents had lived there. A group of apartments has been renovated to different points in the building’s history to represent the families that occupied them.

The only way to visit the Orchard Street tenement is one of the tours, which are interactive and story-telling in the way they are conducted. On both of my visits, there was animated discussion between the guide and the visitors, sharing history and discussing what life would have been like for the families whose homes we were visiting.

Current Tenement Museum Tours:

  • Hard Times (available in 1 and 2 hour versions)
  • Irish Outsiders
  • Shop Life
  • Sweatshop Workers (available in 1 and 2 hour versions)
  • Tastings at the Tenement
  • Exploring 97 Orchard
  • Coming Soon! 103 Orchard
  • Explore the tours in more detail

I’ve visited the Tenement Museum twice now.

When my daughter Catherine was fifteen, I brought her to NYC for her first visit. I’d read about the Tenement Museum, and I thought it would be a way to give her a true sense of the history of the city, something to juxtapose with the grandeur of, say, the Metropolitan Museum.

The Baldizzi Apartment at the Tenement Museum
The Baldizzi Apartment at the Tenement Museum. Photograph courtesy of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

We took the Hard Times tour, which focused on two families: the Gumpertz family (from Germany) during the crisis of 1873, and the Baldizzi family (from Italy) during the depression of the 1930’s.

Just last weekend, I returned for the Irish Outsiders tour. This time I visited the apartment of Joseph and Bridget Moore who lived at 97 Orchard Street in 1869.

moore-apartment-parlor-new-keiko-niwa-w2
Joseph and Bridget Moore’s parlor. The Moore’s lived at 97 Orchard Street in 1869. Photograph courtesy of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

My advice is to start with the Hard Times tour. Since it addresses two different time periods and families with different ethnic backgrounds, I think it’s a great introduction to the museum.

If you live in the United States, your family immigrated – unless you happen to be native American.

All of our families have interesting stories. Mine came to America in the 1700’s, Hugenots escaping religious persecution, and then a Scots-Irish family looking for a better future. Listening to different immigration experiences connects us on a deep level.

It just depends on when your ancestors arrived as to the types of hardships they faced. It is estimated that 40 percent of all current U.S. citizens trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island.

Tenement Museum Shop and Bookstore

97 Orchard Street: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, a book by Jane Ziegelman.
97 Orchard Street: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, a book by Jane Ziegelman.

On both of my visits to the Tenement Museum, I was impressed by their shop. My readers know I love small, independent bookstores, and this is a fine one with a focused collection.

I brought home two books this time, A Tenement Story: The History of 97 Orchard Street, and The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and 97 Orchard Street: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement.

I am particularly taken with the 97 Orchard Street: An Edible History by Jane Ziegelman. Here is an excerpt of her book:

“Our visit with Mrs. Gumpertz begins on a Friday, late morning, over a steaming pot of fish, a carp. The fish lays snugly in an oblong vessel, like a newborn in a watery cradle. From our vantage point, it looks intact. In reality, however, the fish has been surgically disassembled and reassembled. It is the kind of culinary operation worthy of a trained professional, yet the responsible party is standing in front of us, an ordinary home cook.

The process begins with a slit down the backbone. Mrs. Gumpertz opens the fish the same way one opens a book. Carefully, she scrapes the flesh from the skin, chopping it fine so it forms a paste, what the French call a forcemeat. Reduced to a mere envelope, head at one end, tal at the other, it is now the perfect receptacle for stuffing. Mrs. Gumpertz fills the skin with the paste and sews it shut. She lays the reconstructed carp on a bed of fish bones and onions — sliced but unpeeled — then puts it on to simmer.

Just now, she is standing over the open pot, wondering if it needs more time. She prods it with a spoon; the fish is ready. She lifts the pot from the stove, moves it to a chair in the parlor, and leaves it there to cool by an open window. Moments before sundown, start of the Jewish Sabbath, she slices her carp crosswise into ovals and lays them on a plate. The cooking broth, rich in gelatin from the fish bones, has turned to jelly. The onion skin has tinted it gold. Mrs Gumpertz spoons that up too, dabbing it over the fish in glistening puddles. To a hungry Jew at the end of the workweek, could any sight be more beautiful?” — Jane Ziegelman

If you want to buy these books, please do it through the Tenement Museum Shop online, since proceeds go to benefit the  museum.

I encourage you to visit the Tenement Museum. I found both of my tours not simply interesting, but moving — a way of connecting to this important part of American history in a very personal way. I look forward to returning on my next trip to NYC!

The Tenement Museum on Orchard Street, Lower East Side
The Tenement Museum of New York, corner of Orchard and Delancey. Photograph courtesy of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

When I visited last weekend, the Tenement Museum Shop was surrounded by a scaffolding, which made for a poor shot. Then I found that photographs inside of 97 Orchard Street is not allowed — which of course I respect. A big thank-you to the Tenement Museum of New York for sending the photographs!

Update note: One of my Facebook readers went to the Tenement Museum during the summer. Of course, there is no air conditioning in 97 Orchard Street. Just something to keep in mind if you are thinking about going on a really hot day!


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

About Ann

I grew up in Mississippi and New Orleans, have lived in both Seattle and Manhattan, and finally moved back to Texas in 1990’s.

I have a darling teenage daughter who heads off to university in the fall of 2017. I have been divorced and am now widowed. Finally, I am a colon cancer survivor.

I am now writing and traveling full time — what a wonderful thing!

This website is a forum for many things. I want to talk about life, in all of its rich, wonderful and terrifying forms. I want to share my travels, my thoughts on life, and my experiences as a woman and a mom. I want to talk about the nature of reality and the meaning of life, and to celebrate being alive.

Thank you for visiting! 

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Sources

Blackmar, Elizabeth. Manhattan for rent: 1785-1850. Ithaca: Cornell U Press, 1991. Print.

Blanck, Maggie. “Life in New York.” Life in New York. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2017. <http://www.maggieblanck.com/NewYork/Life.html&gt;.

History.com Staff. “Ellis Island.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.

Plunz, Richard. “A History of Housing in New York City Reprint Edition.” N.p., 1990. Web. 02 Feb. 2017.

Seitz, Sharon. A tenement story: the history of 97 Orchard Street and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. New York, NY: Lower East Side Tenement Museum, 2004. Print.

Stamp, Jimmy. “Pioneering Social Reformer Jacob Riis Revealed “How The Other Half Lives” in America.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, 7 May 2014. Web. 02 Feb. 2017. <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/pioneering-social-reformer-jacob-riis-revealed-how-other-half-lives-america-180951546/&gt;.

“The Tenement.” WTTW Chicago Public Media – Television and Interactive. N.p., 03 Apr. 2016. Web. 01 Feb. 2017. <http://interactive.wttw.com/ten/homes/tenement&gt;.

Ziegelman, Jane. 97 Orchard Street: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement. New York: Harper Collins, 2010. Print.