Tenement Museum Collections

What’s Looming at the Tenement Museum

Looming machine


As we prepare to reopen our tenement at 97 Orchard Street after a year-long preservation project and welcome visitors once again into our tenement homes, we are working to ensure no detail is overlooked.

Our Curatorial Department has been working with Family Heirloom Weavers for decades to custom weave these historically accurate rugs. Welcoming visitors into our spaces over the years have worn down our rugs much faster than normal. They are a family-run business operating out of Pennsylvania and are one of the last surviving textile mills in the United States, specializing in historically accurate and authentic reproduction textiles, woven on vintage looms. The video above shows a rug being woven in their “Daisy Scroll” pattern on an antique Jacquard loom. This specific carpet is heading for the 1870s Gumpertz parlor as we begin the process of moving our apartment exhibits back into 97 Orchard Street.

Why is it so important that this particular parlor be adorned with a well-made woven rug?

On our tours, we often discuss the preconceived idea of what tenement living was like in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many visitors are surprised by the decorative details and well-kept appearance of our recreated tenement homes, but first-person narratives and recollections from descendants often tell us that while they might not have had much in the way of belongings, many took care to keep their homes tidy and pleasant.

For many tenement residents, their homes were also where they ran businesses, whether they were making clothes or reading palms. This was the case for the home of German Jewish immigrant Nathalie Gumpertz and her family. Her story can be heard on our 100 Years Apart tour, where we discuss how she lived in 97 Orchard during the Panic of 1873, when jobs and money were scarce for everyone, particularly for immigrants and migrants. We know through primary resources the 1870 census that Natalie began to run a dress making business from her parlor to support herself and her children after her husband abandoned the family.

Her customers would have most likely been her neighbors, so she would have made every effort to decorate her home nicely to reflect the quality of her work. She’d want her customers to be happy and comfortable, so they’d return and recommend Nathalie’s business to their friends.

We like to think Nathalie would have appreciated this meticulously crafted and beautiful carpet adorning her home and business, and we can’t wait to welcome you back to stand all over it when 97 Orchard reopens!