Antique Signs at 97 Orchard, Part 1

Posted on: January 28th, 2010 at 6:27 am by

Many thanks to Derya Golpinar, Collections Manager at the Tenement Museum, for writing this exclusive article for Bowery Boogie!  Here is part one…

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Things are busy at the Tenement Museum, where work is underway planning and conducting research on our newest exhibit (tenatively titled “Minding the Store”). For this exhibit, various storefronts, decorated with appropriate period furniture and artifacts, will immerse visitors in an 1870s saloon, a 1890s kosher butcher store, and a 1930s auction house. We will interpret how immigrant shopkeepers and the communities they served engaged in a process of creative adaptation, introducing practices and customs that challenged, accommodated, and helped reshape American society and its values.

In a way, this new exhibit will be a continuation of the work we always do here – bringing to life the stories of the people connected to the building at 97 Orchard Street. But those of you who are familiar with our work will know that this exhibit breaks new ground for us. For the first time, we are presenting the experiences of the immigrant shopkeepers instead of only talking about those who lived in the building. Since its construction in 1863 until the early 1990s, the basement level of 97 Orchard Street was occupied by commercial tenants. We are excited to finally be presenting this perspective and asking visitors to consider how this nation has benefited from the entrepreneurial energies of newcomers, many of whom built productive lives by exploiting opportunities on the margins of the larger economy.

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Since the opening for this new exhibit is targeted for January 2011, we’ve put two signs from our permanent collection on display in the basement windows. We hope they pique your interest and set the tone for the new exhibit.

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[© Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum]

Feltly Hats sign: This sign was found inside 97 Orchard Street when the Museum took over the building in 1988. Unfortunately, we don’t know too much about this store except that the business operated out of 97 Orchard from the 1970s until the early 1980s.  We know that they operated out of the top, south storefront and the folks who worked in the store were friends with the folks at Sidney’s Undergarment Co. (a store that operated out of the basement of 97 Orchard Street). Here is a photo from our archives that shows the employees of Feltly Hats and Sidney Undergarment Co. toasting together during the closing of Sidney’s shop c. 1982. We know that there is a store called “Feltly Hats” in Williamsburg but we have not confirmed that it is the same business that was located in our building.

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[© Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum]

TUNE IN TOMORROW TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CHOCK, INC!

We are eager to hear from you! What LES mom and pop shops are/were your favorite? Do you have any memories of Feltly Hats or Louis Chock to share with us?

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