The Tenement Museum

Renovations to Tenement Apartments and Visitor Center


The Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s mission is to preserve and share the history of New York’s immigrants through the display of two refurbished and historic apartment buildings located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. There, in one of America’s most iconic immigrant neighborhoods, the original residences housed over 15,000 working class immigrants from over 20 nations.

In order to enhance and support the Museum’s mission and vision, a comprehensive 20-year strategic plan, led by Perkins Eastman, was conducted. The plan assessed existing conditions, space requirements, and program needs of 91, 97, and 103 Orchard Street. Subsequent to that master plan, significant renovations and upgrades were designed. The former living quarters were transformed into a time capsule, allowing visitors to explore the history and artifacts of the building’s early tenants. Further, new and improved office and administrative spaces were provided for staff, as well as an inviting visitor center at street level to better serve the Museum’s increasing number of guests.

Our designs to support the renovation of the third, fourth, and fifth floors of this Museum required significant coordination with the architect to provide heating & cooling to an exhibit which, per the time period, had no air conditioning. Great care was taken to conceal air grilles and remain historically accurate. Systems incorporated a variable refrigerant flow (VRF) heat pump system utilizing modular air-cooled heat pumps connected to indoor fan coil units. Ventilation throughout the building is provided via a dedicated outdoor air unit. Project scope also included new electrical, plumbing, and fire protection throughout, including high-efficiency lighting and low-flow plumbing fixtures.


ARCHITECTPerkins Eastman
SIZEOver 20,000 square feet
COST$6.5 million
AWARDS2018 MASterworks Award, Best Restoration;
2019 Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award

Photo credit: © Andrew Rugge. Courtesy Perkins Eastman,
© Sarah Mechling. Courtesy Perkins Eastman, © Paúl Rivera