This is a partial interior view of the lobby area...

This is a partial interior view of the lobby area at the Blue Moon Hotel on Orchard St., Manhattan. Credit: Steven Sunshine

The Blue Moon Hotel on Orchard and Delancey streets on the Lower East Side is a step back into New York's immigrant past.

It's a labor of love for artist-turned-hotel builder Randy Settenbrino, who said he wanted to preserve the artisan past of the 18th and 19th centuries by turning an old tenement into a boutique hotel.

After five years of careful gutting and refurbishing, the hotel today offers tourists a historic experience of when the city flourished with pushcart vendors hawking wares, produce and crafts -- a time when the Lower East Side was a commercial strip of Americana and millions made their first mark in the New World.

In earlier generations "there was craftsmanship: tailors, blacksmiths, carpenters, hat makers, dress makers, candle makers, bakers, masons -- all were artisans," said Settenbrino, dressed in a vintage suit and fedora. "They had vision and had the inspiration to create. They left a human impression each time you touched what they made."

After seven years of operation, Settenbrino is selling the Blue Moon, he said, to "someone who loves this project and respects its history." Settenbrino said he intends "to create again" on another project.

He declined to reveal what he paid for the Blue Moon or his asking price.

Staying at the Blue Moon is "so unique," said Sylvana Oates, 58, of Perth, Australia. "It's a wonderful experience to walk back into this era. Everywhere you look you see objects from the immigrant past. You can't help but stop to look and read and study the objects."

Oates said she checked into the Blue Moon after several days at a midtown hotel.

"This New York experience offers us more to our visit than just staying in midtown, where there is only commerce and shopping," Oates said.

Settenbrino, 51, a Brooklyn native, said his love of the Lower East Side started when he was 6 years old and his mother took him to Orchard Street to buy his first suit.

"We walked into this store with an ocean of suits," he said. "The merchant asked my mother my size and he pulled out my first shark skin suit like pulling a fish out of the ocean."

The lasting impression brought him back to the neighborhood to work at men's clothing stores while studying fine art at Brooklyn College.

In 2000, the tenement building was for sale and "I was a crazy artist with a vision," said Settenbrino, who bought the storefront and opened up its upper floors, which had been sealed for 70 years.

Settenbrino found a treasure trove of artifacts from the people who once lived in the tenement: a Boy Scout membership card dated 1922, greeting cards, newspaper clippings, the diary pages of a young boy dating back to 1926 -- all hang on the walls of the hotel in matted picture frames.

Inside the apartments, where families shared bathrooms and common hallways, Settenbrino found dozens of gas stoves that he refurbished and turned into night tables and coffee tables. He took down the building's fire escapes and rebuilt them into decorative balcony railings for his top-floor suites.

Anything that was salvageable he restored and polished, from light fixtures to mosaics that he used to tile the hotel's lobby.

"This is a case study of recycling," Settenbrino said.

Settenbrino said he is searching for his next work of art and he will again work on the premise that "everything has a use and if broken should be refurbished."

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