EXPLORE SOHO

DESCRIPTION

The area south of Houston Street ("SoHo") is well renowned for its cast-iron architecture, trendy stores and cobblestone roads. Despite the fact that as of late many of the chic boutiques and art galleries have been replaced with high-end chain stores, the community still yields a distinctive village-like feel.

The area is known for its abundance of modern art galleries; SoHo is home to the Center for Italian Modern Art, a locale for annual exhibition installations and cultural programming to promote 20th century Italian art. Also in SoHo are the Drawing Center, a multidisciplinary museum that explores drawing as a medium; 101 Spring Street by The Judd Foundation, a hallmark of contemporary art within a historic cast-iron building; and the SoHo Arts Network, an extensive network of non-profit art spaces across the neighborhood.

Dining-wise, neighborhood favorites include Balthazar, a French bistro; Dominique Ansel Bakery, home of the famous Cronut; Cipriani Downtown serving classic Italian specialties; Ladurée, an upscale Parisian bakery; Blue Ribbon Sushi, a traditional sushi bar; Crosby Bar, serving afternoon tea and cocktails inside the Crosby Street Hotel; and Ben's Pizza, famous for its old-school slices.

Ever an up-and-coming spot, SoHo is home to many high-end designer shops and boutiques, including Barbour, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Burberry, Chanel and Ted Baker London. The trendy area has served as the backdrop for many a movie location and fashion shoot, and still does today. Along with the staple boutiques and galleries, many chain stores have recently moved into the area, with a steady influx of retail constituencies consistently on their way. A prime example is the Apple store that replaced a post office in an old building on Prince Street.

Vesuvio Playground, named for the popular nearby bakery, is a fun SoHo spot with a wading pool and multiple sports courts. Another neighborhood staple is the Housing Works Bookstore Café, a nonprofit café and hangout spot where New Yorkers come to shop the city's best music, book and movie selection.

HISTORY

Initially occupied by Native Americans, SoHo became the site of the first free black settlement in Manhattan with the dawn of colonization. In the 1660s, Dutchman Augustine Hermann acquired the land and passed it on to his brother-in-law, Nicholas Bayard, the largest landowner on the island at the time. Because of the area's geographic barriers including a collect pond and the high Bayard's Mount, it wasn't until the late 1770s that the now-behemoth thoroughfare of Broadway extended north and allowed for increased settlement. Continued industrialization in the 1800s brought both residential and commercial growth, particularly in the textile industry.

Following World War II, the textile industry moved south and left many large industrial loft spaces in the area unoccupied. Eventually, the artists that became synonymous with the vibrancy of the area began to adopt these low-rent, large and naturally lit spaces. Around 1968, a group of residing artists and activists came together to form the SoHo Artists Association and ultimately gave the neighborhood its now widely-known nickname. The area became abuzz with performances in the streets, gallery openings and a hip night life.

LANDSCAPE

SoHo extends from West Houston Street in the north to Canal Street in the south, and from Crosby Street in the east to Sixth Avenue in the west.

Even those only mildly familiar with SoHo will attest to its cast-iron architecture; the neighborhood hosts the largest collection of cast-iron buildings in the world. The SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District was officially designated by the NYC Landmark Preservation Commission in 1973, demarcating approximately 500 buildings, most of which incorporate cast-iron elements. Many of these quaint blocks are paved with charming Belgian blocks.

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