Welcome to my genealogy blog. Ancestors I Wish I Knew is a combination of genealogical information and stories about individuals in my family tree. The focus is on those from my Cochrane, Eitelbach, Merrett, Minarcik and Richards lines and their descendants.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

#92 --The Wendels and the Minarciks ---Living on the Lower East Side in KleinDeutschland

Willett Street 

On June 27, 1854 my great grandparents, Joseph and Regina (Wendel) Minarzick (now spelled Minarcik) , and their two children, and my great, great grandparents, John and Katherine (Kolh) Wendel and four of their children arrive in New York City on the ship William Tell.  As did most German immigrants, they lived in the tenements on the lower East Side, which was also known as Kleindeutschland (Little Germany).   Germans coming to New York clustered together in a 400 block area of Manhattan from Division Street up to 14th street and from the Bowery to Avenue D.  From what I have read, they brought much of their German culture with them.  There were beergartens and saloons, German language newspapers, social clubs, shooting clubs, singing societies, banks, libraries, theaters, etc.  So when I was in New York with the New English Historical and Genealogical Society, I was excited to be able to visit the Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard Street and learn what life might have been like for them.

The Tenement Museum has several tours.  We took the one that focused on the German saloon run by John and Caroline Schneider.  The saloon was in the front of the house on the first floor and the Schneiders lived behind it.  I thought it was particularly interesting that in 1880 there were 346
Tenement Museum
saloons in Kleindeutschland and wondered which ones my ancestors went to.   I was surprised at the number of places to drink, but learned it was not that the Germans drank that much, but rather that the apartments in the tenements were so small that having company over was very difficult.  So people met their friends in the bars and saloons.

In the early 1850’s, well-to-do individuals who owned homes in the area were moving north.  Their homes were then subdivided into apartments.  In some cases additional floors were added to the original house so that these houses, known as tenements, would be four or five stores high.  The typical tenement house was 100 feet long and 25 feet wide.  Tenements originally had no gas for heating or any lighting; the only light came from the windows in the front and back of the building.  However, in 1901 city regulations required electric lighting in the hallways.  The bathroom and water were located out back behind the tenement.  Typically, each floor contained 4 apartments with each apartment consisting of a kitchen, parlor, and bedroom.  However, there were larger apartments available
Floor Plan of Tenement
to those with more income.

Given that information, I wondered where they lived in New York.  The 1860 census provided some basic information:  both families lived in the 17th Ward, 5th Division.  In fact, they are listed on the same census page.  The Wendels were in Dwelling Number 22 along with four other families.  The Minarciks were in Dwelling Number 23, with four other families.  Given the Dwelling Numbers, I assume that the houses were next door to each other; if not they were certainly close.  In 1870 they were still in the 17th Ward, but in the 22 District.  The Minarciks were in Dwelling Number 177 with 6 families.  The Wendels—Just John and his daughter, Elizabeth-- in in Dwelling Number 194 with 12 families.  One family moved, but I do not know which one.  Prior to the 1880 census, Joseph Minarcik and his wife died.  That left Charles, their oldest son as the head of the family, living with his four brothers and sisters and in the same house as the Wendels—both at 67 Willett Street, New York.  When I tried to find Willett Street on a map of New York City, I discovered that the street no longer existed, but had been replaced by the Samuel Gompers Housing project.  That project is north
1869 Map with Willett on the far left
of Delancy Street on Pitt Street.  So at least I know the general area.  With a little more digging on line, I found an 1869 map of the area with Willett Street and all the houses on Willett on it.

So I knew where they were in 1880, but where were they in 1860 and 1870?  I knew that they were in the 17th Ward.  Fortunately, I found both families in several city directories.  In 1857, the Minarciks were at 174 3rd Avenue, which is between 16 and 17th Streets and in 1872, 177 2nd Avenue, between 11 and 12 street.  I could not find them in any of the years between.  From 1868 until 1877, the Wendels were at 194 Third Avenue between 17th and 18th Street.  So they lived rather close to each other.  When I looked at those addresses on line, the buildings had all been replaced with more modern ones.

I would like to ask the Wendels and the Minarciks about their life in the Lower East Side Kleindeutschland.  How did they pick their apartments?  What were their neighbors like?  Why did they move?  How much was the rent?  How did they manage in the cold of winter and the heat of summer?  What did they do for entertainment?

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