Immigration means something different to everyone — it reminds us of our ancestors, of how the world is constantly changing, or of how, as people, we are always on the move. Our neighborhoods, and New York City in general, are a global hub for movement and have been for hundreds of years. This history is apparent in the fabric of the city, its architecture, its cuisine, the structure of its neighborhoods, and so much more. April 17, 1907 is the day when the largest number of immigrants arrived at Ellis Island. It also kicks off Immigrant Heritage Week, established in 2004 and coordinated by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs as a city-wide celebration that honors the experiences and contributions of immigrants in New York City.
This year, Village Preservation and our colleagues at the Merchant’s House Museum have been highlighting immigration to the Village during the 19th century, exploring overarching themes, and local and global activism that have shaped our world through the immigrant experience. Let the experts guide us…
Village Preservation has written many articles about immigration, most of which were rounded up here. Our lecture series, The NEW New York, has revisited some of these topics, while also bringing up new angles and addressing experiences and stories that we haven’t heard before.
The NEW New York: Immigration, 1820s to 1880s – An Overview
SJ Costello wowed us with information focused on the microcosm of Bond Street, an exclusive area east of Washington Square, developed in the 1820s by John Jacob Astor, a German immigrant. The neighborhood was a residential enclave for wealthy merchant families,whose roots ran deep in English soil. Their lifestyle was assured only by the existence of domestic servants, many of whom were Irish immigrants. The talk explored the push-pull factors that led Irish, Germans, Chinese, Eastern Europeans, and Italians to emigrate. Watch the talk here.
The NEW New York: 19th Century Irish Immigration and the Revolution
We have had many programs about the experience of Irish immigrants in the Village; this talk by Dermot McEvoy took a deeper look at the ways that Irish immigrants stayed connected with their families and the revolutionary movements in Ireland. Watch the lecture here, and learn about the archbishops, saints-in-waiting, gangsters, rogues, jesters and other colorful characters of “Fenian New York,” a refuge for Irish revolutionaries since the failed Rising of 1867. IrishCentral.com where he writes on history, politics, and culture.
Kleindeutschland: Little Germany in New York City
Explore a detailed history of the development of the German-American community in New York City and the East Village/Lower East Side, within the larger context of 19th-century immigration as a whole, with historian Richard Haberstroh. Various aspects of society and day-to-day life in the German community in New York provide insight into specific characteristics of this particular immigrant experience in the city, some physical remnants of which still remain more than a century later.
This event is taking place Wednesday, April 24, at 6:30pm at the Third Street Music School. Click here to sign up for our waitlist.
Fighting Anti-Asian Discrimination in 19th Century Greenwich Village
Following the passage of the 1882 Exclusion Acts, thousands of Chinese-Americans moved to New York City to escape the increase of racist violence sweeping the nation. Here, they formed organizations to defend their rights and assert their agency within their communities. While most of this took place in what is now Chinatown, Greenwich Village was also a center for Chinese Americans organizing in the late 1800s. Dylan Yeats, Visiting Scholar at the Asian/ Pacific/ American Institute at NYU, will focus on the Chinese American immigrant-rights activists who lived and worked in Greenwich Village 130 years ago. These young people worked with neighborhood churches and institutions to try to protect and extend equal rights for all races. Learn how their under-recognized victories and defeats shaped a formative moment in U.S. history and continue to resonate today.
This event is taking place Thursday, May 9, at 6:30pm, at the Baha’i Center, 53 East 11th Street. Register online here!
Italians in the Village
After the Civil War, hundreds of thousands of Italian immigrants came to America, most of them making New York City their first stop. While the Lower East Side and Little Italy are well-known for their immigrant history, many may not remember that the area south of Washington Square was one of the most densely populated Italian precincts in the country. How did the Village come to be separated into a wealthier area north and west of Washington Square and a more working-class neighborhood to the south and east? We will find out. We’ll also explore, with historian James Nevius, who paved the way for Italians in the district and talk about the importance of holding on to the Italian places that still exist in the area so as to preserve this heritage.
This event is taking place on Tuesday, June 18 at 6:00pm at the Washington Square Institute, 41 East 11th Street. Click here to sign up here for our waitlist.