Under One Roof

by Joseph McKeown


 The living room of Ramonita Saez and her two children. (Photo courtesy of the Tenement Museum.)

The living room of Ramonita Saez and her two children. (Photo courtesy of the Tenement Museum.)

Under One Roof is a new exhibit at the Tenement Museum exploring post-WWII immigration in the Lower East Side. The Tenement Museum is comprised of two historic tenement buildings, 97 Orchard Street, which tells the stories of immigrant families between 1863 and 1935, and 103 Orchard, which now houses its first exhibit to feature modern immigration stories. This week I attended a preview tour of Under One Roof, and learned about residents at 103 Orchard, including Bella Epstein, whose parents survived the Holocaust; Jose and Andy Velez, whose seamstress mother, Ramonita Saez, left Puerto Rico and worked for many years in the garment industry; and the Wong siblings, whose mother sewed in Chinatown garment shops. Under One Roof takes visitors into the homes of these three families from the 1950s through the 1970s and uses an astonishing attention to decorative details (notice the plastic furniture slipcovers above) as well as audio, visual, and in-person storytelling by the tour guide to convey their immigrant experience. The exhibit is open for preview tours now, and is scheduled to officially open later this fall.