It was a beautiful spring day, and after crossing Washington Square, I decided to head south, and re-visit Soho, the neighbourhood South of Houston Street, which has been a national landmark since 1978, because of its cast iron buildings. It was a trendy neighbourhood with art galleries, and more recently has attracted boutiques and shops of international brands - those names you can see in many places around the planet. But I did not come for the shops - I only wanted to cruise the streets, and decided to do so in an organized manner. I worked my way from north to south, starting at the western side of Soho, and when I reached Canal Street, I walked one block east, and walked up north again. This way, I managed to cruise the historic district, street by street, block by block.
It was also a trip down memory lane: I had been here several times before. The first thing I recognized, and one of the most obvious characteristics of Soho, were the emergency ladders on the exterior of the four- to five-story buildings. It was afternoon already, and the sun was shining on all the west-facing houses, so I walked in the shade on the other side for the best views. One of the things I had somehow forgotten: some of the streets are paved with cobble stones, imported from Belgium. The district has seen a variety of inhabitants; once, freed slaves of the West Indies lived here; it had been home to the entertainment centre and red-light district of New York, while in the second half of the 19th century, manufacturers moved in.
After the industry moved further south, some of the buildings were torn down, while others were vacant, until the 1960s when artists moved in, eventually revitalizing the buildings and the district. It is not always directly evident when you walk around the area, but while the buildings you see resemble stone, they often are cast iron which was painted so that it resembled stone. I kept on standing still to study the iron ladders, often decorated, hanging out from the buildings like ladders from a tall ship, just before it docks. In the end, it took me hours to cruise the neighbourhood. It was remarkable that, while the main streets were full of tourists, just before Easter, I found very few people in the north-south streets that turned out to be the most interesting anyway. There were even stretches of street with blossoming trees: after a long winter, spring was clearly in the air.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Soho (United States). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Soho. Read more about this site.