Article, Booktalks

Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York Booktalk

  • Grades: 3–5

Many people today live in apartments, but they are far different from the ones built in the 1880s, called tenements, that were home to only the newest of Americans.

Immigrants lived in the tenements of New York, in America’s first apartment houses, America’s first slums, buildings so close together that little sun leaked through, and it was hard to see more than a sliver of the sky. Whole families lived in one room, with no running water, no electricity, and sometimes no heat. The bathroom was an outhouse in the backyard that was shared by all the families in the building. The kitchen was the water pump in the back yard, and soup was heated over a gas light.

How many people can live together in one 10 foot by 12 foot room—the size of a small bedroom today? When they were lucky, perhaps only three or four. But when times were hard, it was a different story. Discover the people behind the stories, the early immigrants who lived in the tenements of New York, who struggled to survive and prosper in America.

 

  • Subjects:
    American History, Family Life, Determination and Perseverance, Immigration, Homes and Housing, Neighborhood Life, Resourcefulness
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