In the 19th century, Soho -- short for South of Houston and, as any New Yorker can tell you, not pronounced like the city in Texas -- was an area of farms, pastureland and even swamps. Now, bordered by Houston Street on the north and Canal Street on the downtown side, and by Lafayette Street and Sixth Avenue to the east and west, Soho has become one of Manhattan’s most desirable residential neighborhoods. What was once a funky, bohemian neighborhood has become a favorite spot for the more artistically inclined elite, as well as one of Manhattan’s definitive shopping spots.
Soho’s emergence as a blockbuster neighborhood is easy enough to understand: warehouses and other large industrial spaces were easily converted for work and sleep. The resulting Soho lofts, which remain the neighborhood’s distinctive apartment style, sprang up in 19th-century cast-iron buildings originally used as warehouses and factories. Soho still boasts the greatest collection of cast-iron architecture in New York City, but today’s Soho apartments are more likely to be new construction luxury condos or condo conversions, with a notable new crop of developments near the Hudson River. These new developments, including those in Nolita, have brought a lot of young professionals to the area. What was once bohemian is now as upscale and high-brow as lower Manhattan neighborhoods get -- Central Soho lofts are among the most expensive real estate in Manhattan; the Trump Soho, a new luxury condo in Soho, further signals the neighborhood’s entry into Manhattan’s upper echelon.
In Soho, Broadway attracts hordes of retail-happy tourists, and vendors cram the sidewalks and slow pedestrian traffic to a crawl. Just off that hectic stretch of Broadway, which is home to blockbuster mega-retail such as H&M and Uniqlo, are an eclectic mix of boutiques and high-end retail, including outposts of stores such as Bloomingdale's and Dolce & Gabbana. There’s an Apple Store, as well. Nolita adds to the appeal of Soho with its trendy bars and restaurants that make it a hot spot for New Yorkers. Soho’s unique character can still be felt on its picturesque cobblestone streets -- Crosby, Wooster, Mercer, and Howard all feature cobblestone stretches -- and historic buildings.