The Tenement Museum is continually collecting research about the immigrants featured on our tours, but have you ever wondered about the thousands of other people who have lived at 97 Orchard Street? Well, we keep track of them too.
One of those families is the Bonofiglios. This past week, The New York Times profiled Rita Bonofiglio – one of the last living residents of 97 Orchard – who recently visited the museum for the first time in a decade. Like the Baldizzis, who are featured on the Hard Times tour, the Bonofiglios were Italian immigrants who lived at 97 Orchard Street during the early 1930s. In fact, they lived just upstairs from the Baldizzi family.
Indeed, there were two Bonofiglio households at 97 Orchard Street during this period. New York-born Rita Bonofiglio lived at 97 Orchard Street with her mother, Calabrian immigrant Maria and sister Rose. Rita’s older brother John Bonofiglio also lived at 97 Orchard Street with his wife, who was also named Rose. They had a son, Vincent, in 1935 just before the building was condemned and all of the residents evicted.
Here is a family portrait featuring John, age 41, Vincent, age 4, and Rose, age 30, taken sometime in 1938 or ’39, after they had left 97 Orchard Street:
Adolfo Baldizzi, his wife Rosaria, and their two children Josephine and Johnny became fast friends with their neighbors. Josephine remembered playing beauty parlor and movie theater with Rita Bonofiglio in the bedroom of the Baldizzi apartment. John and Rose Bonofiglio were Godparents to Josephine, and Rosaria Baldizzi was Godmother to Rita Bonofiglio.
In 1939, Adolpho Baldizzi got a job in Brooklyn Navy Yard and his family left the Lower East Side, but they never forgot their friends. When Josephine spoke with the Tenement Museum in 1989, she told us that the Bonofiglios are “related with me now.”
- Post by Dave Favaloro