Friday, April 4, 2014

The Doorway That Was Once Home

Home. Regardless of the time we live in, home has had the same meaning. A place to rest, to recharge, to reconnect. In trying to understand what life may have been like for the Feitner family, and in particular my great great grandfather Jacob, I felt I needed to see the places they called home. Families in 19th century New York City moved on average once a year. Rental terms lasted one year, usually beginning in May. Many families opted to move each Spring, and the Feitner's moved around the West Side of Manhattan with amazing frequency, often moving only a block or two away from their previous address. Census records and the New York City Directory have been invaluable in tracing their movements. Sadly, most of the buildings they lived in no longer exist.  But there is one, poignant building that does still stand in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in Manhattan: the 5 story brick building at 504 West 48th Street.

Jacob moved his family here when the building was new, in the Spring of 1900. It may have been an ideal location for the family, with his wife's family living a block away and the Garment District close by. My great grandmother, his daughter Helen, was photographed in front of this building when she was barely two years old. It was also the building where Jacob died, less than one year after moving his family in. I visited the building recently and imagined his comings and goings through the ornate wood door, and the great sadness that must have been forever attached to the address for his wife and children.

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