First Look: New “Shop Life” Exhibit at Tenement Museum

Posted on: November 21st, 2012 at 11:21 am by

Attending myriad Community Board 3 meetings and canvassing the neighborhood, we hear the age-old argument ad-nauseum. Would-be and established bar owners tend to bank on this catch-all notion of being a “true neighborhood bar.” Some are sincere, but most aren’t. Needless to say, it’s the gold standard to which so many strive – a coveted place where locals gather to shoot the shit over beers without the worry of the wrong crowd. The local.

This idea of the community social hub, a threatened species these days, is behind the newest long-term tour at the Tenement Museum. Transforming an under-utilized space, Shop Life strives to explain the story behind the commercial tenants which once operated in the ground level of 97 Orchard Street.

Shop Life tells the story of a Civil War veteran shoemaker and his unlikely push to open a saloon in a neighborhood then known as Kleindeutchland (“Little Germany”). After returning from the front lines, John and Caroline Schneider would eventually open their watering hole on November 12, 1864. It eventually became a place people frequented to get out of their living squalor and socialize with the neighborhood. Beer was served alongside an enticing spread of free lunch (extra salty to spur drinking).

We learn about the clientele that frequented the joint, the social clubs, and drinks of choice. And of John Schneider’s lonely death as pauper on Randall’s Island (then a poor house).

Also part of the tour story arc is the history of other later commercial occupants, including Israel and Goldie Lustgarten’s 1890s kosher butcher store, Max Marcus’ 1930s auction house, and Sidney and Frances Meda’s 1970s undergarment store.

In the southern storefront of 97 Orchard is a high-tech display sure to excite historians and computer nerds alike. Modified X-Box Kinect system that enables educators to elaborate on the ghosts of the building. Patrons place objects on the magic table designed by the wizards at Potion Design, which activates an audio explanation via old-school telephone earpiece.

Shop Life remains in previews until the end of the month to work out the proverbial kinks. We are told that tours officially begin December 3.

Recent Stories

streits-tour-boxes_wm
Documentary About Streit’s Matzo Scores Festival Run Just Before the Lower East Side Departure

The Streit’s Matzo factory only has a few months left on the Lower East Side, the neighborhood it called home for ninety years. After Passover – concluding April 11 – it’s all she wrote. In the end, it was filmmaker Michael Levine and producer Michael Green who chronicled the final years of the matzo-makers at […]

Siempre Verde Garden on Stanton St.
CB3 Fully Backs the Establishment of a Community Gardens District on the Lower East Side

In a huge boon to the area’s history of guerrilla gardening, Community Board 3 last night voted to support the creation of a Community Gardens District in the East Village/Lower East Side. That includes the remaining 46 gardens still located within its confines. The full board ratified the advisory resolution recommended by the Parks subcommittee […]

essex-snowman-twin-1
Behold! The Essex Street Snowman Now Has a Twin

The rather rotund Essex Street Snowman was sprayed with water, causing it to multiply like mogwai. Where there was once one, now two exist… Yes, there are now twin monstrous Essex Street Snowmen at the corner of Canal Street. In a quick change-up, the father-son team at the Chinese bodega created a second snow creature […]

mission-chinese-rent-orchard
Mediterranean Bar Hopes to Nab Doomed Mission Chinese Space on Orchard Street

Looks like one hopeful restaurateur is interested in taking over the lower level of 154 Orchard Street. This address, of course, is the notorious previous home of Mission Chinese Food. The space comes with a terrible vermin problem and a backyard that is not legal (a death trap, even). Chef-owner Danny Bowien is still embroiled […]

straus-square
Straus Square Ready for $6.5M Safety Upgrade as Part of ‘Safe Routes to Schools’ Initiative

In an overall bid to increase and implement “school safety” street improvements, the city will soon embark on a capital construction project to retool Straus Square in Chinatown/Lower East Side. The Department of Design and Construction is managing the $6.5 million push – dubbed “Safe Routes to Schools” – which includes changes such as reconstructing […]