A street on the Lower East Side

While New York City is home to a vast amount of well-known tourist locations, it’s also chock full of lesser-known gems that are equally fascinating and worth visiting. Plenty congregated on the Lower East Side, which has a rich history as an immigrant, working-class neighborhood.

In the late 19th century, the first groups to arrive were Germans and Eastern Europeans, followed by Italians and other Southern Europeans. Today, the Chinese, spilling over from nearby Chinatown, are the dominant immigrant group in the area.

Lower East Side Tour & Tasting

Kehila Kedosha Janina

In the early 2000s, the Lower East Side underwent a period of rapid gentrification, making it one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Manhattan. It’s where you can find alleys and tenement buildings adjacent to chic boutiques, up-and-coming restaurants and trendy music/arts venues. Altogether, these elements make up the eclectic, quirky and uniquely diverse fabric of the Lower East Side.

From a former bathhouse to a secret garden, here are the top 10 secrets of the neighborhood:

10. The Lower East Side Was Once Home to the Oldest House in Manhattan

Formerly the oldest building in Manhattan
Photo from the Library of Congress.

In 1936, the oldest known house in Manhattan, on the southern end of Cherry Street, was demolished as part of a citywide slum clearance campaign. The Dutch-style town house was constructed around 1760, and reportedly housed some of George Washington’s officers during the Revolution.

From October 1936 to January 1937, Arnold Moses of the Historic American Building Survey took a series of exterior and interior photos of this building at 29-29½ Cherry Street. Today, this section of Cherry Street is occupied by Knickerbocker Village and the Governor Albert E. Smith Houses, two large public housing projects constructed in the 1930s and 1950s, respectively. Read more here.