Why the Name?
SoHo is a neighborhood in the Manhattan borough of New York City. This eclectic neighborhood in lower Manhattan had a long history before becoming New York City's artistic haven. In the 1840s and 1850s, it was an area with more bars and brothels than anywhere else in the city, catering to a male clientele from all social stations from clerks through the middle class to the city's elite, all of whom filled the area's streets and sidewalks from Saturday night to Monday morning. Eventually, as the center of the growing city continued to move uptown, the quality of the area declined, until it became known as Hell's Hundred Acres, an "industrial wasteland", full of sweatshops and small factories in the daytime, but empty at night.
In the mid-20th century, artists began to move in to have large spaces in which they could both live and work. Through the 1960's artists quietly moved into the abandoned buildings which provided "lofty" spaces to contain their creativity. (Even if there often was no electricity!) In 1968 artists and activists were forming an organization to legalize their living in a manufacturing zone. Seeking to identify their group geographically, they consulted a city Planning Commission map that described the area as "South of Houston", (pronounced "how-stun")"Houston" being Houston Street. This was shortened to "SoHo", the group voted to call itself the SoHo Artists Association and the name for the neighborhood stuck. The neighborhood's association with the arts has expanded over time, and the area has become a famous destination for shopping. It is an archetypal example of inner-city regeneration and gentrification, encompassing socio-economic, cultural, political and architectural developments. It is also known as the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District because of the many buildings incorporating cast iron architectural elements.
SoHo boasts the greatest collection of cast-iron architecture in the world. Approximately 250 cast iron buildings stand in New York City and the majority of them are in SoHo. 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.