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South of Houston
We’d visited SoHo when last in New York 26 years ago. At that time it was a relatively recently “discovered” area, with lofts being developed in the old warehouses and a few trendy shops, cafés and bars starting to spring up. We were keen to go back and see what it looked like after all this time. Would it have been spoiled? Would it have started to go downhill? Would we still like it?
As it turned out, we had a really good afternoon walking its streets, checking out a few galleries, eating lunch in a French style café (see my Restaurant tip on Le Petit café), shopping at a small craft market, taking photos and generally taking in the atmosphere.
The name SoHo is a blend of "South" and "Houston" from "south of Houston Street" and was invented when the area underwent its transformation into a trendy hot-spot. Prior to that, it was known as the Cast Iron District because it contains the greatest collection of cast-iron architecture in the world – well over 200 buildings. Cast iron was used in the mid nineteenth century to provide a decorative front to smarten up an old building, and later whole buildings in SoHo were later designed to feature the cast iron. Cast iron was quick to build with and cheaper than materials such as stone or brick: ornamental features could be prefabricated in foundries and broken pieces could be easily recast. Some of these features can be seen in my photos.
In the 1960s the area was threatened with demolition to make way for a new Expressway, but pressure from historians and activists saved it. In the 1970s artists started to move into the area, attracted by the large spaces in the run-down industrial units, and the revival and eventual gentrification of SoHo had begun. Nowadays trendy boutiques and bars line its streets, and it’s a popular destination for both New Yorkers and tourists, so don’t expect to have it to yourself. Nevertheless we enjoyed our explorations of streets such as Greene, Wooster and Mercier, visited some of the galleries (I liked Coda in Broome Street) and found it still a great place for photography. All in all, SoHo is a very pleasant place to spend some time.
Cast-iron : the American architectural innovation.
SoHo, the Manhattan neighborhood SOuth of HOuston St, has the world's largest collection of cast-iron facades. This construction technique not only reduced cost but allowed for ornate features to be prefabricated in foundries from molds and used as building facades.
During the second half of the 19th century this was a popular neighborhood, with Broadway nearby. As the theater district moved uptown, SoHo became an industrial district where workers toiled in dangerous conditions for low wages, facing the dangers of accidents and fires. It earned the neighborhood the nickname "Hell's Hundred Acres". Many young, female immigrants died in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire, because the building they were working in had been locked.
The district was threatened with demolition in the 1960's until preservationists drew attention to the rare iron cast architecture. The district was saved and artists moved into the loft spaces.
During the past few decades the high rent has driven most artists out of SoHo again, to places like TriBeCa, and it is now the home of exclusive art galleries that started to move there from upper Manhattan in the 70's. In 1992 even the world renowned Guggenheim Museum opened its SoHo branch, as well.
Some of the best cast-iron buildings can be found on Greene Street. This really is a wonderful neighborhood to take a stroll in.
Check my "off the beaten path" section for more specific SoHo tips.
- Arts and Culture
full of cast iron buildings
I loved Soho even though I didn’t buy anything! Most visitors come here for the small art galleries (pics 1 and 2). Most of the artists are unknown to me that sell unique clothes and other items (I have to admit that I found most of them kitch and expensive). Some of these art galleries are interesting even from outside so you can spend your time doing window shopping (it’s free anyway!) but have in mind that in our days most of the art galleries are in districts like Chelsea. Before my visit here I thought it was something like SOHO in London but then I’ve learnt that the name comes from SOuth of HOuston street!
Greene street was very interesting because of the cast iron buildings of the 19th century. Cast iron used to be relatively cheap after the industrial revolution (late 18th-early 19th century) that brought many (good and bad) changes in daily life everywhere in the western world. There many building with cast iron elements in Soho but on Greence street I counted more than 40! They were built between 1869-1895. Take a look at some of the facades, especially those with columns in Corinthian style!! (pic 3)
I was already satisfied with the big museums of NY so I just took some notes of the museums of SOHO and I will probably visit them next time:
Children’s museum of the Arts at 182 Lafayette
New Museum of Modern Art at 583 Broadway avenue
Museum of Comic and Cartoon Arts at 594 Broadway avenue
New York City Fire Museum 278 Spring street
We spend some more time walking around the cobblestones of SOHO and I tried to imagine all those artists that during 60s and 70s have their studios here.. I took some photos of some weird painted (pic 4) or cheap (pic 5) cars and we continued walk to the east where Little Italy and Nolita are. In fact the streets of Little Italy are a big “nothing” with no Italian flavor at all. There are only some Italian restaurants if you want some pasta or pizza but don’t expect something more than this. Mulberry street is the most common street to walk into (with souvenir stores etc) or visit the St Patrick Old Cathedral at 260 Prince street.
- Hiking and Walking
Soho is said to be one of the hippest parts of NY and indeed, there is an arty atmosphere in this part of NY. Also the people living in or walking through the neighbourhood looked quite hip. I heard that a lot of models have their home here and indeed, if you are a girl and you are complexed about something, this is not the area to be :-)) If you are a guy however, ... :-)
Also a famous sight in Soho are the fire stairs outside the houses (allthough you can find them also in other districts) You can find an example in this picture.
If you have seen the 1985 Martin Scorsese film "After Hours", then you know what SoHo was like only two and a half decades ago. The district was one of the most rundown and perhaps dangerous neighbourhoods in Manhattan. Not so much today, for it has changed several times since then and is now one of the most desirable and expensive in New York. The area, named SoHo as an abbreviation to SOuth of HOuston Street, developed in the second half of the 19th century, when many beautiful cast-iron buildings were erected to serve as warehouses and factories. By 1960, most had shutdown or moved elsewhere leaving the large spaces with unusually high ceilings to be occupied by nascent artists who needed the space and light. The entire neighbourhood escaped demolition in the late 1960s thanks to the effort of preservationists, but it did not reemerge until the late 80s/early 90s when many art galleries took up spaces here due to proximity to the artists. Along with the artists, came new and young fashion designers, then in the late '90s artists' lofts were converted en masse to luxury residential lofts, which in turn attracted high-end designer shops such as Prada, Armani and Chanel, to name a few. Nowadays, SoHo is one the trendiest areas in Manhattan offering a mix of great high-end shopping, restaurants and art galleries. But the greatest charm of the district lies in its unique architecture and cobblestone streets.
- Luxury Travel
lovely area for a wander
There are a few streets here once you get off the main one that are quite quiet. Some fabulous shopping around here and an abundance of art galleries if that is your thing, although have to say many are rather pricy!
The wrought iron work here is something to look at if you like that (which I do!) and this was probably my favourite place to shop. Far more relaxing and some lovely shops (although some very expensive!)
NY Neighborhood Walking in Soho & Tribeca
One of my favorite NY daytime things to do is just walk around and enjoy all the different Manhattan neighborhoods & buildings.
Soho & Tribeca really have imo that "NY feel" to them, with something interesting to look at and lots of history always around the corner. Art & photo galleries and lofts can be found all over the neighborhood.
is probably one of my favorites (west of Broadway) for look / feel, vibe & architecture.
Lots of places to hang out, eat & stroll, just like all the great cities, but with its own NY personality. Many of the ethnic neighborhoods may now be gentrified & overpriced, but who's buying? Walking and enjoying them are free.
If you like great music photographs from some of the best in the business
(I do), one place to check out is Morrison Hotel Gallery at 124 Prince Street. Here's a MAP
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Cruise down Broadway and join the Madness
For a true urban experience, jump off the train at Astor Place, and begin your journey through "NoHo", down into SoHo and Chinatown. Truly maddening on weekends, the mix of shoppers, tourists, locals, fashionistas and clubkids is dazzling. There are a ton of great shops and restaurants, and stands - including a Summer Sunday Flea Market. End your trip plowing through the shopping chaos of Canal Steet.
Walk SOHO, South of Houston
Soho is one of my favorite neighborhoods to walk on a Saturday afternoon or early Sunday. It is particularly charming in the warm months. There are fabulous shops and restaurants, my favorite being Balthazar.
- Women's Travel
Hippy, funky, cool
I went to the Soho district by a chance since my hotel was nearby. I was on my way to the Empire State and decided to walk along the Broadway. There are some nice shops in the area (they start shortly after the not so nice Canal Street), selling funky, colourful wellington boots (absolutely everyone was wearing wellies when it rained! That's is so sweet and funny at the same time, since no one ever wears wellies in London, but they certainly do in NYC!!), relatively trendy clothes in shops that just don't exist in Europe (as well as designer gear and the usual DKNY, GAP and other shops you can find almost anywhere), decorative items for home/furniture. There also a few ethnic shops and lots of cafes. On the other side of the district, near the West Broadway, there are also some nice looking restaurants.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Women's Travel
An acronym for SOuth of HOuston (pronounced "how-stun") Street. This eclectic neighborhood in lower Manhattan had a long history before becoming New York City's artistic haven.
The SoHo that surrounds you, with its cast-iron warehouses and cobblestone streets arose in the 1850's after the residential population moved uptown.
By the late 1900's, the fashionable businesses moved uptown and the area developed into a seedy, sweatshop-filled slum known as "hell's hundred acres."
But by the 1970's SoHo developed into a community, transforming itself into a residential / commercial / artistic zone.
Today's SoHo is much different from the artist community of the 1970's. Loft apartments now sell in the millions, a bit more than the paintings in the art galleries.
The trendiness aside, SoHo is still one of the best areas in NYC to shop, eat and just walk about.
Shopping in Soho
Shopping in Soho (e.g., around Broadway/Mercer Streets, etc.) is always a nice treat. Here, you will find many trendy boutiques and shops as well as mainstream stores. The prices vary depending on the quality and brand of merchandise, but it seems like prices in many stores are lower here than in other areas.
- Arts and Culture
- Women's Travel
Eleven Iron Men
The monument, Eleven Iron Men, was dedicated to those who built the Empire State Building. Diligent and brave, these construction workers were unaware that their labour would one day symbolize fortitude.
I took this photograph while strolling though Soho, NYC. The monument was strapped onto a four-by-four truck and was parked to showcase. Late afternoon, the sun had settled behind tall buildings and the moment to expose the man's detailed faces seemed perfect.
I'm not a photographer. I pale in comparison to those who choose this art as a form of self-expression and world observations.
However, the object was inspiring and I do enjoy the possibility to emulate an artist's work.
SoHo (South of Houston) had a long history before becoming New York City's artistic haven. With its cast-iron warehouses and cobblestone streets the neighbourhood arose in the 1860's. Today's SoHo is much different from the artist community of the 1970's. Loft apartments now sell in the millions, a bit more than the paintings in the art galleries. SoHo is still one of the best areas in NYC to shop, eat and just walk around.
Greene Street is the heart of SoHo’s Cast-Iron district. Along 5 cobblestoned blocks are 50 cast-iron buildings and it’s the largest concentration of this kind of architecture in the world. Walk into any of the galleries housed within to see the spacious interior lofts.
It’s definitely my favourite area in Manhattan.
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