LOWER EAST SIDE — The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is kicking off a special series on love, giving curious locals insight into the lives of many tenants that have come and gone at 97 Orchard St.
The idea for “Love at the Tenement” first came about with the discovery of an old love letter, dating back to the 1910s or '20s, written by a man to his fiancée, a resident of the building — inspiring the museum to take a newly intimate look at the lives of old-time Lower East Side dwellers.
“It gave us pause and made us think about all these stories of love in the tenement that have not necessarily been recorded,” said Annie Polland, vice president of programs and education at the museum. “We look at all sorts of documents that don’t talk about people's emotional states.”
Museum staff have dug into their arsenal of oral histories and documents to uncover more stories of love within the building’s walls, which are estimated to have housed around 7,000 people between 1863 and 1935.
The newly revealed stories cover the emotional gamut, said Polland — there are many stories of romantic love, but also love among families and friends that have lived in the building.
And while there are more stories of young love, such as the one revealed in the unearthed love letter, there are romances of every stripe, said Polland — in one case, a woman who lost her husband to a flu epidemic in the early 1900s fell in love again with a tenant of 97 Orchard St.
“There was love that could blossom in the walls of the tenement,” she said. “We liked that story because it wasn’t just about young love, but about finding new love.”
The museum’s first love-centric event was held Feb. 12, days before Valentine’s Day, and the museum will now continue the program on June 17 at 6:30 p.m., with the intention of hosting an event every few months.
The event will include complimentary snacks, and a cash bar will be available in the museum’s Visitors Center.
Tickets are $30 and can be purchased here.