While both tenements and apartment buildings refer to multiple family dwellings, the origins of the word tenement and its association with overcrowding, poverty, and working-class life date to the early 19th century when large-scale residential tenancy began to develop in New York City.
Vast numbers of tenements were built in the mid-nineteenth century demonstrating their profitability in the absence of government regulation.
Tenements built after 1901 are called "new law" tenements while those built between 1879 and 1901 are called "old law." Since 97 Orchard Street was built before any housingreforms, it is known as a "pre-old law" tenement.
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