ORCHARD STREET. THE EAST SIDE.
The mecca of the East Side bargain hunter is a strip of Orchard Street between Rivington and Delancey. Its curbs are forever lined with pushcarts laden with a thousand and one variegated wares, piled high in colorful profusion and vividly reminiscent of an Oriental bazaar in an "Arabian Nights" episode. Jostling and boisterous crowds are feverishly ranging up and down the row of pushcarts, and attracted to the wares by the hue and cry raised by the howling hawkers, women mill around the pushcarts like whirlpools.
From morning until late into the night the turgid air resounds with a loud and confused clamor of buying and selling, with the stentorian voices of the peddlers rising like war cries above the babel.
Each cart is a separate entity in this conglomerate mart and gathers about its wheels a motley collection of people. Some are collarless and flannel shirted; some are millinered and gowned in taffeta or broadcloth; others wear shawls on their heads and skirts of calico.
"Orchard Street" has become proverbial for cheapness, supplanting even "Hester Street," which was once popularly employed in this connection. If one wants to cast a reflection on an article of apparel it is sneeringly referred to as having been purchased in "Orchard Street." Merchants who keep shops of the better class use an effective method for despoiling customers who want a thing much below the stipulated price. They contemptuously advise them to go to "Orchard Street."
Contrary to the general impression that the East Side is the abode of want and poverty, it is just possible that conditions are not quite so bad as we are led to believe.
"It drives me off my bean," Patrolman Levine said on the corner of Rivington and Eldridge Streets, "to hear a million people in The Bronx and other places go around telling how they pity the poor on the East Side. Some of them get their pity from the Sunday stories of fellows who get their information over the telephone. The other people once lived on the East Side themselves. but they ain't keen about advertising it, so they go tuttuttin' and pityin' like the rest."
In further proof of his contention, the policeman said that out of thirty-six families in the house opposite, not three would be found at home. He rapped at many doors and only one responded.
"What did I say?" he asked triumphantly. "Was any one home? Nix, they all beat it as soon as their husbands go to work. These houses are almost empty.
They are out in the air—down at Coney Island or Rockaway or Central Park. They go early, about 8 or 9 o'clock. They come home late."
"The women are bigger than the men," he explained. "That is, mostly. The men can't complain with any results. The women aren't perfect housekeepers, but they sure do like their kids. I guess that is what sends them outdoors. People in other neighborhoods don't get the air half as much. I wish I could show this to some of those la-de-da writing guys."
It is doubtful if any city does so much in the direction of Welfare Work as New York for its poorer citizens. Free sterilized milk for the children, free clinics of all sorts, free classes where mothers are taught how to properly care for their children, evening classes for men, day nurseries and places where babies may be kept under competent care while their mothers go to work, free illustrated lectures for everybody. Lectures on preventable diseases and a hundred and one other aids are constantly at the service of these help-less persons. The famous Henry Street Settlement House is here; its methods and practices are copied in every city in the Union, and is only one of the many such similar institutions all over the city.
While we are not particularly keen about the East side as a show section, we realize that it is full of strange sights for the tourist and no doubt will yield a mild sensation of novelty and entertainment. Yet if omitted, you are quite sure sooner or later to see these same streets and same neighborhoods in your local movies. This section of our City seems to have an irresistible fascination for the managers who decide what shall be shown in these popular places of entertainment and so we invariably have shown the sordid and squalid side of New York instead of the beautiful.
If in a lucid interval (if such a boon is ever vouchsafed a movie producer) they would at the same time show the perfectly splendid humanitarian work going on here, it would not be so bad.
To stroll leisurely through Grand, Eldridge, Essex, Clinton, Hester, Division, Henry or Forsyth Streets; Avenue A, B or C, or any of the side streets from the City Hall to 14th Street, is not without interest. Some of the Sight Seeing Buses include part of this neighborhood and that is the best way to see it. The names of many of these East Side streets recall a time when this section was the abode of Colonial Nobility. Hester Street is named after Hester Bayard, wife of a nephew of Gov. Stuyvesant, whose farm covered a portion of this region. Delancey Street after James de Lancey, whose ancestors built Fraunces Tavern. Division Street marks the line between the great Rutgers and de Lancey farms. Oliver and James Streets are named for other members of the latter family. Clinton, for Dc Witt Clinton, creator of the Erie Canal, Mayor and Governor.
But there is little now to suggest the days of lace and old lavender, yet the modest home of Alfred E. Smith, Governor of the great State of New York, is at 25 Oliver Street, opposite Henry Street, within less than half a minute's walk of Chinatown. Almost back of Gov. Smith's house extending from Oliver Street to New Bowery, is a very small burial ground, but rather important. It is the first Jewish cemetery, the land for which was granted as far back as 1656. It is about a city lot in size, and almost hidden by the Elevated road. A dead wall which looks into it covered by brilliant theatrical posters serves to emphasize the striking difference between the Quick and the Dead.
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