"SoHo" Soho District Tip by apbeaches

Soho District, New York City: 45 reviews and 75 photos

SoHo is famous for artists' lofts, art galleries, shops ranging from trendy upscale boutiques to national and international chain store outlets. The area consists of 26 blocks and about 500 buildings, many of them incorporating cast-iron architectural elements. Many side streets in the district are paved with Belgian blocks.

SoHo boasts the greatest collection of about 250 cast-iron buildings. Cast iron was initially used as a decorative front over a pre-existing building. With the addition of modern, decorative facades, older industrial buildings were able to attract new commercial clients. Most of these facades were constructed during the period from 1840 to 1880. In addition to revitalizing older structures, buildings in SoHo were later designed to feature the cast iron. The E. V. Haughwout Building at Broadway and Broome Street was built in 1856?57, and has a cast-iron facade by Daniel D. Badger Initially cast iron was cheaper to use for facades than materials such as stone or brick. Molds of ornamentation, prefabricated in foundries, were used interchangeably for many buildings, and a broken piece could be easily recast. The buildings could be erected quickly; some were built in four months. Despite the brief construction period, the quality of the cast-iron designs was not sacrificed. Bronze had previously been the metal most frequently used for architectural detail. Architects found that the relatively inexpensive cast iron could provide intricately designed patterns. Classical French and Italian architectural designs were often used as models for these facades. Because stone was the material associated with architectural masterpieces, cast iron, painted in neutral tints such as beige, was used to simulate stone.

Since the iron was pliable and easily molded, sumptuously curved window frames were created, and the strength of the metal allowed these frames considerable height. The once-somber, gas-lit interiors of the industrial district were flooded with sunlight through the enlarged windows. The strength of cast iron permitted high ceilings with sleek supporting columns, and interiors became expansive and functional.

During cast iron's heyday, many architects thought it to be structurally more sound than steel. It was also thought that cast iron would be fire-resistant, and facades were constructed over many interiors built of wood and other flammable materials. When exposed to heat, cast iron buckled, and later cracked under the cold water used to extinguish fire. In 1899, a building code mandating the backing of cast-iron fronts with masonry was passed. Most of the buildings that stand today are constructed in this way. It was the advent of steel as a major construction material that brought an end to the cast iron era.

SoHo's location, the appeal of lofts as living spaces, its architecture, and its reputation as a haven for artists all contributed to gentrification. A backwater of poor artists and small factories in the 1970s, SoHo became a popular tourist destination for people seeking fashionable clothing and exquisite architecture, and home to some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

SoHo's chain outlets are clustered in the northern area of the neighborhood, along Broadway and Prince and Spring Streets. The sidewalks in this area are often crowded with tourists and with vendors selling jewelry, T-shirts, and other works. SoHo is known for its commercialization and eclectic mix of boutiques for shopping. By 2010, there were more boutique chain stores

Address: Lower Manhattan, New York City
Directions: Lower Manhattan and South of Houston Street
Phone: 6464506831
Website: http://sohonyc.com/

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  • Updated Aug 19, 2015
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