SoHo – slang for “south of Houston” (not hew-stun, as in Texas, rather how-stun, as in the ‘burb to the north) – has had its ups and downs before morphing into the lively art, architecture, and high-end shopping mecca it is today. From its start as farmland settled by the Dutch in the late 1700s to its status as the home of names like Prada and Chanel today, one thing is for sure about this charming little NY neighborhood – it has been through the wringer and emerged a local favorite.
SoHo boasts a rich history, cresting and dipping in and out of favor with the wealthy and prominent. In the early 1800s, it was the shopping destination favored by New York City’s upper echelon. The industry then moved in, and by the time the E.V. Haughwout Building (home of the stylish Haughwout Emporium) was erected in 1857, areas of the city were degenerating and brothels could readily be found in visitors’ guidebooks.
Still the shopping remained attractive, so much so that Mary Todd Lincoln visited the Emporium to purchase new china for the White House – to the tune of a (then exorbitant) sum of $3000. In the 1950s, the quaint little area went through another rough period, when it was dubbed Hell’s Hundred Acres, following the exodus of the textile industry overseas and to the southern U.S. The neighborhood gradually recovered, however, and is now the trendy place to live.
Pick Your Pleasure
There’s so much to choose from in Soho that you could never do it all. For a unique rhythm and dance experience, check out Movement Research’s experimental shows that incorporate audience feedback and discussion. Take in a variety of art (not just drawing) at the non-profit Drawing Center. It’s affordable and interesting, a combo that’s tough to beat. Once you are cultured up, browse the minimalist Babel Fair, peddler of eclectic globally sourced clothing and accessories, or check out the new Birchbox location – the online cosmetic seller’s flagship brick-and-mortar.
You’re sure to be hungry after all your adventures, so duck below street level for the fresh, authentic choices – from affordable to extravagant – offered by Blue Ribbon Sushi. For a Caribbean flair, try out Miss Lily’s Variety, home of a killer goat curry and staff that will keep you coming back.
Plenty to Boast About
Of course, no diatribe on SoHo is complete without mention of the exquisite display of intricate cast iron that adorns the otherwise humble little borough. Iron was used in the late 1800s as a way to revitalize otherwise drab buildings and draw industry to the area. It worked, and today SoHo is the home of the vast majority of New York City’s iron-adorned buildings.
Not surprisingly, the lovely little location has also hosted Hollywood more than once, having been featured in movies like Ghost, Men in Black, Hitch, and Spiderman. Even if you missed catching a glimpse of the filming, keep an eye out for one of the many SoHo-loving celebs who have chosen to make their home there, like Dakota Fanning, Justin Timberlake, John Mayer, or Kelly Ripa.
It’s taken its bumps throughout the centuries and bounced back every time. No one knows what the future holds for SoHo, but right now it looks pretty bright.