My birth grandmother, Anna Feldman Kessler, was born to Esther and Morris Feldman in Manhattan on Dec. 6, 1897. She was the 4th of their 9 children. She was born at home in 38 Goerck Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. At the time of her birth. Morris was 27 and a cabinet-maker and Esther was 25.
On her birth certificate, her given name was Sadie. However, no one in the family remembers her ever being called that. She was always known as Anna.
Goerck Street was the epicenter of life in the Lower East Side at the beginning of the 20th Century. It was a rough neighborhood with over-crowded tenements and depressing conditions. It was known for bottle fights, which were fights where every kind of weapon was used. The neighborhood was filled with pushcarts as families constantly moved in and out. Goerck Street went from Grand Street north to East Third Street. Today it is known as Baruch Place.
If you are wondering how people lived from day-to-day in the tenements, you will find a very detailed description along with lots of photos on Maggie Blanck’s website http://www.maggieblanck.com/NewYork/Life.html#top . Amongst other things, she covers such details as:
- How did people wash clothes
- How did they bathe
- What were their bathrooms facilities like
- Where did the children play
- What did children play with
- How did they deal with the heat in the summer
Anna grew up as a middle child in a house full of children. The family moved around a lot but mostly in Brooklyn. When she was only 14 years old, her mother, Esther, died. Her father kept the family together. This was unusual for the times. Often a single parent divvied the children up amongst relatives or orphanages. Once Ida, her older sister, got married, she and her husband moved in and helped take care of everyone.
Anna, Ida and the other girls were popular based on calling cards and other things with the girls’ names on them found by their niece, Estelle Eisler (Ida’s daughter). Anna was described as beautiful and was tall, thin, with light brown hair. She was quiet and refined. Her first cousin, Eddie, remembers going to her Sweet 16 party. Being one of the few boy cousins, he was very popular at his cousins’ parties and always had a good relationship with his cousins.
We don’t know where, when or how Anna met Abe Kessler, but they got married on November 10, 1917, in Brooklyn, NY. They were married by Rabbi Chaskel Lewinter. At the time of her marriage, Anna was living with her family at 744 Georgia Ave, but where did they live after the wedding?. She was 19 years old and about 7 months pregnant.
Anna’s first child, a girl, was born on January 15, 1918. She was immediately put up for adoption.
By 1925, Anna had 2 more daughters, Esther and Florence, and was living at 128 St. Johns Place in Brooklyn. At that time, her husband, Abe, worked in the stock exchange. Esther was born in 1919 and Florence was born on June 12, 1922. According to her cousins, Anna married well. They considered Abe well-to-do since he was educated and an accountant.
Anna, Abe, and their children, like everyone else, were hurt by the depression. That is when they moved to Canarsie, across the street from Morris. Ida and her family had moved to their own place, but they moved back in with Morris when Estelle was about 9 or 10. The depression was hard on Anna and Abe, too.
By 1930, Anna and Abe and their children were living at 1116 Carroll St. in Brooklyn, which was in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. It was within walking distance to Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens which was founded in 1910. Their building was built in 1925 and has 4 stories and 42 units. Also in Crown Heights was the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the world’s first children’s museum, which opened in 1899.
Estelle remembers Anna’s family coming over and she remembers going to their apartment. She is pretty sure that she and Anna’s daughter, Florence, went to school together.
Anna had impeccable fashion sense and was always dressed beautifully. Her daughter, Esther, seemed to have inherited this gift. Anna was a housewife and described as being “just the loveliest person”. She had a good friend who husband was a Jewish police officer.
Although her sisters were all good cooks, Anna cooked very plainly since her husband, Abe, liked only plain foods with nothing mixed together.
By 1940, they had moved down the street closer to the Park to an apartment building called The Carrollton at 934 Carroll Street which is where they still lived when Anna died. Their new apartment was in a building that was slightly newer and larger than their other building. The Carrollton was built in in 1926 and had 58 units. They were paying $85 a month rent. They must have had a large apartment because they were paying more rent than their neighbors according to the 1940 Census.
Anna died on June 18, 1943, from cirrhosis of the liver although she was not known to drink. She was only 45 years old and was living at 934 Carroll Street at the time of her death. She died in Beth Moses Hospital. Her sister-in-law, Edith Kassel, filled out the death certificate. Anna is buried in Wellwood Cemetery, in Long Island, NY.
Her niece, Estelle Rosenberg Eisler, still remembers her funeral. She said that Anna was sick for a long time and really suffered at the end. Her passing was not unexpected. Estelle remembers seeing Florence and Esther and Abe and Abe’s family there. It was a very sad day for the sisters and brothers who had already lost so many loved ones, and especially tragic for Esther and Florence and Abe.
How did Anna meet Abe?
Who attended her wedding?
Where did the young couple first live?
Did anyone in the family know about her first pregnancy?