Manhattan’s Lower East Side around the turn of the twentieth century was an incredibly crowded melting pot of cultures, at times reportedly holding the title of most-densely-populated region in the world. This particular scene, shot in 1908 by Lewis Hine, shows Orchard Street roughly from Stanton Street looking north toward Houston Street. Trash fills the gutters, children wander unattended, and display stands of a wide variety of goods and wares crowd the sidewalks beneath a multitude of awnings and advertisements. Several of the buildings pictured have survived the tumultuous century since this was taken, most notably a few of the tenement structures on the east side of Orchard. But most buildings were razed over the ensuing decades, including all of those shown on Houston Street in the distance, which met the wrecking ball in the 1930s to make way for the IND subway lines.
Photo by Lewis Hine (1874-1940), courtesy of the NY Public Library Digital Archive.