Tales of a Tenement: Three Families Under One Roof

In today’s show, we’ll continue to explore housing in New York, but move far from the mansions of Fifth Avenue to the tenements of the Lower East Side in the 20th Century. Specifically, we’ll be visiting one building, 103 Orchard Street, which is today part of the Tenement Museum.


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The Epstein sisters, posing on the streets of the Lower East Side. (Photo: The Tenement Museum)

When we step inside 103 Orchard, we’ll be meeting three families who lived there after World War II. We’ll be getting to know them by walking through their apartments, faithfully reconstructed, often with their very own furniture, to tell their stories.

The three families are the Epsteins, the Saez-Velez family, and the Wong family. The Epsteins were Holocaust survivors who moved into the building in the 1950s, the Saez-Velez family moved in during the 60s and were led by a mother who left Puerto Rico and worked as a seamstress here, and the Wong family, whose mother raised the family while working in Chinatown garment shops, moved in during the 1970s.

They’re included in an exciting new interactive exhibition at the Tenement Museum. This exhibit, which includes a tour of the apartments, is called “Under One Roof”, and opens to the public this month. We’re led through it on our show by Annie Polland, the museum’s curator of this exhibit.

For more information on the exhibit, visit tenement.org. While there, be sure to take a virtual tour of the apartment.


Mrs. Wong and her son Kevin. (Photo: The Tenement Museum)


The living room in Ramonita Rivera Saez’s apartment. Photo: The Tenement Museum