SoHo, Manhattan, New York

Located in Lower Manhattan, covers 0.3 miles of Manhattan and has a population of over 18,000 (as of 2019). Often times, New Yorkers will prefer to taxi around the area when shopping. SoHo has been at the forefront of national and international chain stores, trendy boutiques and is the location for many different lofts belonging to artist and their art galleries’. The combination of stores and fashion makes SoHo an excellent vacation point for anyone looking for some inspiration! SoHo also has a massive historical significance and is an example of Inner-city regeneration. The area of SoHo was actually named that because the area is located “South of Houston Street” and was conceived in 1962 by Chester Rapkin. The boundaries covering the neighborhood are actually quite interesting, it is agreed that the Northern boundary is Houston Street and the Southern boundary is Canal Street. However where things get complicated is when deciding the Eastern and Western boarders.

During the colonial era the area of SoHo was used as part of a grant, this grant had farmland given to freed slaves. This established the first ever black settlement on Manhattan Island, marking a historic moment for New York City. During the American revolutionary war SoHo became an area with numerous fortifications. After which the area of Soho mainly lie dormant, no development and a lot of the area had to be mortgage because of the war. During the mid 19-century the section began to remodel itself and changed its entire aesthetic. tearing down the Federal and Greek revival homes and made way to a new style of building, this includes solid structures of masonry and cast iron. The area slowly began to reinvent itself, new grand hotels began to go up in the city, new commercial establishments where opened. The streets themselves became lively and the addition of new theaters and food destinations helped its growing popularity. The area itself began to change and it caused the middle-class to be driven out of the area and made way for the small manufacturers. This includes locksmiths, book publishers, makers of fine china, cabinet-makers, makers of glassware, and many more.

Street view of the SoHo neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City
Street View of SoHo Manhattan, New York City.

This shift led to many more middle-class residents moving out of the neighborhood, this led to a 25% drop in population between 1860 to 1865. Then came the Civil war and the Panic of 1873 which led to large textile firms and other merchandise companies to move into the neighborhood. The area began to develop very quickly after this and soon that section of the city became the wholesale dry-goods and mercantile trade center of Manhattan. However, as the center of the city began to move uptown the quality of the area in SoHo declined rapidly. Soon the area began to become vacant and housed a lot of empty buildings. This was the direct effect of World War II, after its end the textile companies that previously resided within SoHo moved down south. This left many buildings empty and where either repurposed or torn down to make way for parking lots, garages, repair shops and gas stations. In the 1950’s the area became known as Hell’s Hundred Acres, this was due to the area essentially becoming an industrial wasteland. SoHo at the time was filled with nothing but sweatshops and small factories, however because they only ran during the day time at night the area would be empty and lifeless. In the 1960’s a resurgence in interest occurred in the area, and suddenly artist began to move back in leading to a change in the SoHo area.

With the new influx of artists and residents looking to expand their creative minds the area itself needed to become much more “livable”. This brought upon the birth of the Cast-Iron Architecture throughout New York City, Cast-iron was quick and cheap to make and was perfect for a resurgence in a previous hellish area. Currently there are 250 Cast-Iron buildings in New York City and most of these are in the SoHo neighborhood. The cast-iron design is actually a façade and was actually a ploy to make the warehouse structure more visually pleasing, in reality, cast-iron was very brittle. The architectural style of cast-iron buildings was inspired by Classical French and Italian architecture. While these architectural designs would usually use stone, cast-iron was favored due to its “easy to mold” nature, that when combined with neutral colored paint, such as beige, it can become something with a visual similarity. The iron itself made the material very pliable and could be molded very easily despite this it is still a very strong metal. This meant that the window frames within the buildings could be made with significant height, this allowed for more sunlight to fill the rooms that were rented out to artists and the such. At one point, cast-iron was seen as more viable then steel, it was also believed that it was fire proof, all of this was not correct. The truth is that cast-iron has a set of big problems, one of these being that when exposed to heat the material would buckle. in addition the cast-iron material would also crack under the cold, this meant that in the event of a fire, the sudden change in temperature when trying to put out the fire can cause buildings to collapse. at one point in the 1960’s the SoHo area became threatened by a project that would have built a highway directly through the neighborhood, destroying most of its historical significance. This caused major uproar among the community and led to multiple architects and historical preservation movement fighting against the highways construction.

The Interior of SoHo apartments feature an Industrial design and a lot of open air.

Finally after the proposal to essentially destroy SoHo simply to build a road was put away, artist began to come in. Many artist favored the industrial style buildings because it helped motivate and inspire their work because of how open the space always was. However this cause problems among the city and specifically with its zoning laws and the fear that the building may be needed again for manufacturing. This led to the city creating the Artist Tenant Association and then the SoHo Artist Association. Instead of keeping the area strictly industrial the city opted to allowing artist to live within their work quarters under certain permits. The SoHo area had then finally received landmark designation as the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District in 1973.

SoHo Began to change in the 2000’s and in 2005 became a victim to gentrification and the entire area began to change. Former artists that lived in SoHo began to move to Chelsea during the 1990’s, as of 2013 only a few art galleries remain in SoHo, this includes, William Bennett Gallery, Martin Lawrence Galleries, Terrain Gallery, Pop International Gallery, and a few more. SoHo became very pleasing to be people due to its location, living spaces, Architecture, and its known reputation of being favored by most artist led to more people coming in. The combination of struggling artists, repurposed industrial buildings, unique architecture, and exquisite fashion made SoHo a popular destination for both tourists and buyers. SoHo has many different shopping chains around the neighborhood however most of these shops are in the Northern Area. Those who Manhattan visit frequently know that despite the area, SoHo is always scattered with street vendors trying to vend you anything from purses to jewelry and even off brand clothing.

SoHo is insanely popular all over the world because of its artsy style, unique architecture, lively streets, and the endless stores to shop in. Those that are planning a vacation to New York might want to consider adding SoHo to their list, simply for the style! There’s a high demand to visit the city right now, this means there’s high demand for transportation. New York City is no stranger to transportation and has no shortage of car services either, however with so many different car companies it can become difficult to know which is the best transportation company for you. If you are simply trying to get from one point to another then any black car service can help transport you to your destination. However when in SoHo, most tourist and visitors prefer going around the neighborhood for multiple hours. Luckily there are certain limo companies in New York City will let you rent out a car with a driver for multiple hours at a time for a certain price. These New York City black car services have different vehicles available to you, from Cadillac Escalades, to Tesla’s, to even Sprinter Vans. If you are coming in out of the borough then no problem! every single car service in NYC goes throughout all 5 boroughs and some even into New Jersey. However, if you are coming in from out of state then you have nothing to worry about either, certain limo services will go out of state for clients wiling to pay, that goes for yellow taxi’s as well. These transportation companies can go out as far as New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Massachusetts, and even Washington D.C..