The definition of SoHo refers to the area “South of Houston Street”. Soho started out as farmland given to freed slaves by the Dutch West Indies Company. Today this famously artsy neighborhood has evolved into a New York City destination for shopping addicts. It features galleries, restaurants, museums, and stores.
By the mid-19th century, the early Federal- and Greek Revival-style homes were replaced by buildings made from stone and masonry and, more importantly, cast iron. Large buildings rose housing famous stores such as Lord & Taylor, Arnold Constable & Company and Tiffany & Company. After the Civil War, large manufacturing companies, particularly textile mills moved in. These were later replaced by warehouses and printing plants. As manufacturing continued to decline in New York, the area declined and became a haven for abandoned buildings and crime.
During the 1970’s various zoning laws and city ordinances began the gentrification of the neighborhood. Today, the area abounds with art galleries and shopping, and that entails some well-known stores like Lululemon, Sephora, and the Apple Store. The area also has boutiques you won’t find anywhere else and is the location of the New Museum.
Soho contains approximately 250 cast iron buildings. Builders in the 1850’s discovered that buildings using iron could be erected quickly, sometimes in as little as four months. Also discovered was that iron details, prefabricated in foundries, could be used interchangeably for many buildings. First thought to be fireproof, hot iron was discovered to become extremely brittle and unstable after cold water would be poured on it during a building fire and was soon abandoned for steel. Soho received landmark designation as the Cast Iron Historic District in 1973.