Things to Do in SoHo NYC – A Self Guided Tour

If you are unable to join one of our frequently scheduled tours of SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown Tour, here is a self-guided tour and ideas for things to do in SoHo NYC, where you can enjoy the sights at your own pace.  This tour should take you at least 90 minutes, if you do not make long stops in shops, etc.  Use the links below to navigate this post.  Learn how you could save money with a tourist pass.

Self-Guided Walking Tour

Food

Top SoHo Hotels

How to get to SoHo

History of SoHo

Guided Tours

 

How to get to SoHo?

The SoHo district of NYC is located in Lower Manhattan, just north of City Hall and the Financial District and just south of Greenwich Village.  It’s border streets are roughly Canal Street in the south, 6th Ave in the west, Crosby Street in the East, and of course, Houston Street in the north.

 

Where is SoHo

 

By Subway:  The first stop on this tour is closest to the C train Spring Street station. We recommend using this link for directions to the start of the tour.  Other trains that take you into central SoHo are the 6 to Spring Street; N/R to Prince Street or B/D/F/M to Broadway-Lafayette. For the southern boundary of SoHo take the J/Z, N/Q/R, or A/C to Canal Street.

Read our posts on navigating the New York City subway system and on purchasing a MetroCard.  If you are considering utilizing a hop-on, hop-off bus service to navigate through NYC, all the big bus companies have stops in and around SoHo.  Be sure to read our comparison post on New York City bus companies.

 


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Self-Guided Tour

Click here for a larger version of this map. Click here for a downloadable PDF of this tour

 


(A) SoHo Square (site of former Richmond Hill)

During the 18th century in British colonial times, wealthy New Yorkers owned large plots of land beyond the city limits, and on these country estates they build large stately homes for themselves. In 1760, a British major, Abraham Mortimer, who owned a 26-acre estate that encompassed parts of what is now SoHo, including the land around Spring Street and 6th Avenue, built a mansion and called it Richmond Hill. In 1776, the colonists declared war with General George Washington in charge. Briefly that year, Washington took over Richmond Hill mansion to use as his headquarters. After the Revolutionary War, Mortimer and his fellow Brits were no longer welcome in America and the mansion became home to America’s first Vice President John Adams and his wife, Abigail. In 1979, the mansion was purchased by Aaron Burr, America’s third vice-president. During the last year of his vice-presidency, 1804, Burr entered into a duel with his political foe, Alexander Hamilton. Burr fatally wounded Hamilton and shortly thereafter Burr left New York and sold Richmond Hill to millionaire John Jacob Astor, who made much of his fortune through real estate investments. Astor split up and sold off parcels of the Richmond Hill estate and the mansion was leased by many different people for the next 45 years.  At one point it housed a theater and opera house. In its dying days the mansion was a run-down saloon and eventually it was torn down in 1849 and replaced by several modest brick row houses. (As for Alexander Hamilton, he died two days after the duel and is buried in the graveyard of Trinity Church).

 


(B) God’s Love We Deliver 207 Spring Street

This short and uninteresting looking building was built in 1951. It is what goes on inside the building that makes it a significant site. It is home to God’s Love We Deliver, a highly-regarded non-profit gay rights activist group that delivers meals to people with AIDS/HIV. The building is known as the David Geffen Building because this millionaire record company executive donated $1.5 million in 1995 to renovate the building.

 


(C) 188-190 Spring Street Federal Houses (1899)

Federal-Row-Houses-in-SoHo sThese are two of the remaining row houses on Spring Street that date to the late 1800s. Though much of these houses have been altered, they retain their original 19th-century features including the original gable roofs, the typical height of three and a half floors tall, and a small amount of Flemish bond brickwork typical of the era. Although they are not landmarked buildings, they have managed to avoid the fate of so many un-landmark yet historic houses in New York City. The same is not true of what was the formerly adjacent building. The Federal-era row house at 186 Spring Street was built in 1824 and passed through many owners. In 2000, Beastie Boys’ band member Adam Horovitz bought the house and then two years later sold it to a Canadian businessman Stephane Boivin. Boivin originally stated that he purchased the home for “personal use” but just two months later he announced his plan to demolish the nearly 200-year-old house and combine it with land at 182 Spring Street where he planned to build a seven-story apartment building. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation tried to save the townhouse from destruction by petitioning for landmark status. However, the Landmarks Preservation Commission said that the structure was ineligible for landmarking and it was torn down in 2012. Since then the property has changed hands again and is now slated to be the site of a 12,500-square-foot retail building. Fortunately, the lovely gems at 188-190 Spring Street remain untouched.

 


(D) Vesuvio Playground corner of Thompson and Spring Streets

This well-kept and pleasant playground ground is notable not for any particular event, but for the history behind its name. Formerly known simply as the Thompson Street Playground for the street it is on (which was named after a Revolutionary War General William Thompson), it was renamed in the late 1990s to honor the owner of the nearby popular Vesuvio Bakery, Anthony Dapolito. He was very active on the Community Board and dedicated time to ensuring that the playground received funding to keep it in good condition and get upgrades when needed. His bakery, Vesuvio Bakery at nearby 160 Prince Street, opened in 1920 and Dapolitano delivered its freshly baked bread on his bicycle as a child. In the 1980s, after the expensive boutiques and cafes took over Prince Street, the comforting smell of warm baked bread coming from Vesuvio gave Prince Street the feel of the old world. It also had one of the most iconic New York City storefronts.  Dapolitano passed away in 2003 and the much-loved Vesuvio is now the Birdbath Bakery (whose chocolate chip cookies happen to be very delicious!). The new owners understood the historical significance and charm of the original store front and decided to keep the VESUVIO name painted in green on the glass windows. Their own name is small and stashed at the lower left corner of the left window.

 


(E) Ben’s Pizza corner of Thompson and Spring StreetsBens-Pizza-SoHo

Opened in 1977, Ben’s appeared in several scenes in the movie Men in Black 2 starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as well as in an episode of Sex in the City.  In 2003 Men in Black 3 began filming in SoHo, but the 26 trucks and trailers that occupied the narrow streets were not welcomed by the neighborhood. The presence of Smith’s trailer, (a double-decker 1,150 square-foot luxury trailer housing everything from a movie room to a bar) pushed locals over the edge, especially since Smith was also renting an apartment just a few blocks away. The Mayor’s Office of Film who issues filming permits ordered that the trailer be relocated to a private lot.

 


(F) Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua 155 Sullivan StreetSt.-Anthonys-SoHo

This church is situated within what is currently slated to become the South Village Historic District, which includes streets in both SoHo and Greenwich Village and whose history includes the stories of thousands of Italian immigrants who settled in the area in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The parish of St. Anthony of Padua is the second Italian parish founded in the United States and the oldest in New York. As continually waves of Italian immigrants kept coming, the parish decided in 1881 that it needed a larger house of worship than the former and much smaller location a few buildings down the block.

On January 31, 1882, the property went up for sale and the parish seized the moment. That day a terrible snowstorm hit New York. In what some refer to as the “Miracle of St. Anthony’s” only one person made it through the snow to the bidding — Father DeAngelis, the pastor of St. Anthony’s. The parish was the sole bidder and they bought the property at a price they could manage. Construction began in 1885 on the church and when it was completed in 1885, it was the first parish church built by Italian immigrants in the United States.

 

 


(G) Louis K. Meisel Gallery 141 Prince StreetLouis-K.-Meisel-Gallery-soho s

This highly esteemed art gallery is known for its collection of original pin-up art. But it’s best known as the art gallery in which the character Charlotte worked on the popular TV show Sex in the City. For die-hard SATC fans, check out our posts Sex and the City self-guided tour and Visit Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment.

 


(H) The Earth Room 141 Wooster Street

Created by American artist Walter De Maria in 1977, this 3,600-square-foot gallery space contains a 22-inch-deep layer of dirt, weighing approximately 280,000 pounds. The gallery is open to the public for free and though you cannot touch the display or walk on it, it will provide you with a peaceful, natural sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the street below.

 


(I) Anthony Arnoux House (1825) 139 Greene Street Anthony-Arnoux-Federal-House-SoHo

In 1825, a two story brick house was built for Anthony Arnoux, a tailor and apparel merchant. By 1850, Arnoux and his family moved out due to the neighborhood’s decline into a noisy commercial and entertainment district.  After the Arnoux family left, the house was occupied by several businesses including a hat seller and a fur store. In 1968 an art dealer bought the house and in turn sold it to a private investor who planned to restore the now almost 150-year-old house. But the cost and alteration restrictions of landmark buildings have slowed down the renovations, basically now at a total standstill.

 


(J) Etan Patz family home 113 Prince Street

In 1979, Etan Patz, who was six years old, vanished while walking from his home to the school bus stop in SoHo. His case has never been solved and his disappearance is a missing-child case that has haunted New York City for decades and also led to significant change in the way Americans view the safety of their children. His disappearance attracted national attention and Etan’s picture was one of the first to appear on a milk carton in a campaign to help find missing children. The date of his disappearance is now National Missing Children’s Day.  In 2012, after 33 years since Etan’s disappearance, there was a breakthrough in the case and in May 2015, a suspect was put on trial in Manhattan Supreme Court. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict and the judge declared a “hung jury” and mistrial in Etan Patz’s case. It is likely that the suspect will be retried in September 2016.  Ask any New Yorker alive in 1979 if they know who Etan Patz was and chances are they will. Etan’s disappearance touched New Yorkers in a way comparable perhaps to the mass sadness felt after the tragedy of 9/11. Though the Patz family requests that New Yorkers do not leave flowers at their door in SoHo, Etan will always be in the hearts of many New Yorkers.

 


(K) 109 Prince Street (1882) 109 Prince Street

This five-story corner building is both a New York City designated landmark building and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by a young and talented architect named Jarvis Morgan Slade. Sadly, he died at the age of 30 before his building was completed. Surrounded by taller cast iron buildings 109 Prince has a unique look with its three facades. On the Green Street side, on the first column, you can see a plaque with the name of the foundry that cast the iron: Architectural Iron Works, Cheyney, and Hewlett. It is now a Ralph Lauren store.

 


(L) SoHo Center for Visual Arts & Trompe L’Oeil mural (1889) 112 Prince Street SoHo-Center-for-Visual-Arts-Trompe-LOeil-mural

As with other many other buildings in SoHo, artists began to move into the abandoned cast iron factories during the early 1970s. By 1975, the upper floors had become work/live lofts for artists, including Maya Lin, the noted sculptor of the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C. What is special about this building is its facade along Greene Street. Keeping with the cast-iron style of the building’s front façade, artist Richard Haas painted a giant trompe l’oeil (French for “trick the eye”) mural that gives the illusion of a cast iron façade although it is merely a plain brick wall.

 


(M) SoHo Building & Floating Subway Map 110 Greene StreetSoHo-Building-Floating-Subway-Map

This building is actually two older buildings erected by the same owner, Charles “Broadway” Rouse, a noted New York City merchant. First came 125 Mercer (1908) and later the building at 110 Greene (1920). Years later these two buildings were joined to and became known as the SoHo Building. In 1986, Francoise Schein, a Belgian artist, created Subway Map Floating on a New York Sidewalk, an 87 foot long work consisting of concrete rods embedded in the sidewalk. The map is more or less an accurate schematic of the subway as it was in 1986, but the Uptown end is pointing Downtown and vice versa.

 


(N) Apple Store 103 Prince Street. Housed inside an old two-floor post office, the Apple Store is a great place to hang out and relax.  You can recharge your phone, use their free Wi-Fi on one of their dozens of laptops placed throughout the store, check out a free training session or musical performances by some top artists. Bathrooms and water fountains are on the first floor.

 


(O) “Ghost” Building 102 Prince Street Ghost-Building-SoHo

This is where Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg filmed the 1990 movie Ghost. As of April 2015 the three bedroom/three and a half bathroom loft is up for sale with an asking price of $10.5 million. That’s 30 times what Demi Moore earned for her performance in the file. Think of it this way: the apartment cost is $2,370 per square foot.  Moore was paid $350,000. She earned the value of just one of the apartment’s bedrooms.

 


(P) Fanelli Café 94 Prince Street

The ownership of the land on which Fanelli stands can be traced back to 1644 when was part of farmland belonging to Nicholas Bayard (referred to above in the History section). By 1797 Prince Street was laid out as was Greene Street and Mercer Streets. The Bayard family sold the land in 1845. From 1847 until 1920, the building at 94 Prince Street changed owners often, but whatever business was housed in the building, alcohol and food were always served there – even during Prohibition which made the making and selling of alcohol illegal from 1920-1933. When, in 1920 the Fanelli family purchased the business at 94 Prince, it was a saloon called the Prince Café. They changed the name to Fanelli’s Café and during Prohibition it was a ‘speakeasy’ (an illegal bar).

 


(Q)  The Little Singer Building (1904) 561-3 Broadway

Little-Singer-Building-in-SoHo

This 12-story Beaux Arts style building was designed by renowned architect Ernest Flagg, whose buildings can be found all over New York City. The building was the first headquarters of the Singer Sewing Machine Manufacturing Company and thus called The Singer Building. As the company grew, Flagg was commissioned to build a significantly larger headquarters in the financial district. That 41-story building became known as The Singer Building and from 1908-1909 was the tallest building gin the world. It was demolished in 1986 and considered one of the great lost buildings of New York City. Its smaller sibling in SoHo was referred to as the “little” Singer Building. The Little Singer displays Flagg’s innovative design as he combined various materials such as large glass window panes, terracotta panels, wrought-iron balconies and cast-iron ornamentation that give the building its intricate and distinctive look. The building is now residential and commercial co-op space.

 


(R) First Tiffany & Company Store (1854) 550 Broadway First-Tiffany-Store-SoHo

In 1837, Charles Tiffany and his partner John Young opened a store across from City Hall that sold “fancy goods” such as costume jewelry. Ten years later the business had become so successful that it began to sell real jewelry, silverware, watches, clocks and much more. As business thrived, Tiffany & Young, as the store was called, moved further north at to 271 Broadway. Meanwhile, Charles Tiffany pursued a number of side ventures and investments and in 1853 he bought out his partner and the company became known as Tiffany & Co. The company moved again to the much larger 550 Broadway and continued to grow into a company of grand stature amongst the wealthy. When the building at 550 Broadway was erected in 1854, a nine-foot statue of Atlas holding a big clock was placed over the entrance. Atlas has followed the store when it moved again to Union Square and eventually settling at its current location at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.

Tip: If you are planning on purchasing a hop-on, hop-off ticket, all the major companies have stops here at Broadway and Spring St.  Be sure to read our comparison post on New York City bus companies.

 


(S) Bishop’s Crook Lamppost in front of 515 Broadway

Look up at the street light (or lamppost) in front of the H&M store and you will notice its ornate style, known as a “Bishop’s Crook”.  In 1900, New York City began replacing its gas lights with electric light and by 1934 there were 76 different styles placed throughout the city. Over time, older and more aesthetically pleasing lampposts were replaced by modern, bland designs which were both stylistically appropriate to the era, energy efficient and produced more effective lighting for the city’s streets. After New York began designating certain neighborhoods as ‘historic districts’, the modern lampposts were replaced with reproductions of the original style of lamppost that was typical of that neighborhood. SoHo has many reproductions adding to the charm of the district. This lamppost you are looking at is an original, installed around 1936, and is a protected landmark.

 


(T)  King of Greene Street (1873) 72-76 Greene Street

The-King-of-Green-Street-SoHoOriginally a warehouse belonging to the dry goods dealer Gardner Colby Company, this impressive structure is considered to be the finest example of French Renaissance design in SoHo and earned the nickname “King of Greene Street.” It was designed by Isaac F. Duckworth, a master of cast iron architecture with several striking buildings in SoHo and also nearby in neighboring TriBeCa, another historic district. What makes the King remarkable is its ornate, three-dimensional façade.  You can see the other half of this “royal family”, the Queen of Greene Street (1873) at 28-30 Greene Street, yet another masterpiece by Duckworth.

 


(U) 80 Wooster Street (1895)

80-Wooster-Street-SoHo Some say that the beginnings of the 20th-century ‘rags to riches’ story of SoHo began in 1967. And it happened here at 80 Wooster Street. The seven-story Renaissance-style building designed by Gilbert Schellenger was erected in 1895 and was used as a warehouse and light industry. From 1931 to 1967, it was occupied by the Miller Paper Company. It was around this time that artists began occupying lofts in SoHo, and artist George Maciunas bought the building and founded the Fluxus Group with Yoko Ono and other artists. Maciunas had envisioned a SoHo filled with artists who would participate in the communal (or cooperative) purchase of buildings, with entire floors costing $8,000 each. The building came to be called the Fluxhouse Cooperative II, where artists owned the building together. The communal spirit of the Fluxhouse eventually dissipated and like so many buildings in SoHo, the building eventually became private co-op apartments. In 2013, the cost to buy a two-bedroom in the formerly communal living space was just over $2 million dollars. That’s a 25,000 % increase in just 46 years!

 


(V) Gunther Building (1871)  469-465 Broome Street Gunther-Building-SoHo

This stunning six-story white cast iron building was designed by Griffith Thomas, and was a warehouse for the fur dealer William H. Gunther.  It is especially sophisticated compared to some of its neighboring buildings. You can see the Gunther name emblazoned in an arch over the corner entrance. The building currently houses an art gallery and artists’ studios.

 

 


(W) The Silk Exchange Building (1895) 487 Broadway corner of Broome Street

The-Silk-Exchange-Building

In 1894, wealthy developer John T. Williams financed, designed and even served as his own contractor on this long and narrow limestone 12-story building. This sliver of a building, with its intricate terra cotta ornamentation on the upper floors, came to be known as the ‘slice of wedding cake’ building. Three entrances—on Broadway, Broome and Mercer provided convenient access to tenants and clients alike and upon completion, the building quickly filled with tenants, many of them in the silk industry. The high number of silk merchants resulted in the building earning the name The Silk Exchange Building.  Over time the Silk industry moved out of the neighborhood and companies like Roebuck Manufacturing and the Newman Clock Company rented space in the building.  In 1985, the building was converted into 25 residential units.

 


(X) Haughwout Building (1857) corner of Broadway and Broome Street

Haughwout-Building-SoHoThis early cast iron era building was designed by architect John Gaynor and housed the Haughwout (pronounced “how-wot”) Emporium, a world famous manufacturer and seller of fine china, exquisite porcelain, chandeliers and more. President Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln purchased custom-made plates and flatware for the White House. The building also has a place in the history of innovation as it was the first building in the world to feature a hydraulic passenger elevator designed and installed by Elijah Armstrong Otis. Many structures around the world have elevators that were installed by the Otis Elevator Company including the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, and the first World Trade Center towers. Next time you are in an elevator look at the threshold, you may just see the name OTIS.

 


(Y)  Heath Ledger’s former home 421 Broome Street

Heath-Ledger-SoHo-Apartment-BuildingIn 2008, actor Heath Ledger, star of many movies (most notably Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight) was found dead in a fourth-floor apartment in this building. Ledger, who was just 28 years old, died of an accidental prescription drug overdose. Within a few hours of the new of his death became public, media, mourners, and fans gathered outside the building leaving flowers. The attractive building was designed by Griffith Thomas who also designed the Gunther Building above. While Ledger was living in the building he rented his apartment for $23,000 a month. In 2010, the entire building was sold for $15 million in a foreclosure auction and converted into condominiums each occupying an entire floor ranging in price from $3.9 million for a simple apartment to $20 million for the triplex penthouse. Ledger’s former apartment is worth $5 million.

 


(Z)  Former Police Headquarters (1909) 240 Centre StreetOld-New-York-City-Police-Department-Headquarters

When the former Police Headquarters was built in 1909, the neighborhood was a bustling Little Italy filled with poor immigrants and crowded tenement buildings, many of which still line the streets surrounding the formidable huge Beaux-Arts building. The design was meant to both to give the police officers a sense of authority while intimidating the local petty criminals and mafia mobsters of Little Italy. Ironically, according to popular folklore, during Prohibition, some police officers built a tunnel under Centre Street to nearby O’Neill’s tavern for an illegal drink! In 1973, the New York Police Department relocated its headquarters to 1 Police Plaza in Lower Manhattan where it remains today. The building was unoccupied for ten years during which a series of proposals were considered: a hotel, cultural center, museum, etc. Finally, in 1983, the city accepted the proposal of a real estate developer to turn the building into luxury condominiums. At the time, SoHo prices were sky-rocketing as it was one of the most desirable neighborhoods to live in. The new apartments feature high ceilings and one of them even has a vaulted ceiling living room in what was once a basketball court for the officers’ recreational use.

It was converted into luxury co-op apartments in 1988. Supermodels Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, and Linda Evangelista all bought lofts here. Tennis star Steffi Graf and actress Winona Ryder are also said to have lived here. Although technically beyond the boundaries of SoHo, the building was close enough to enjoy the hipness and trendiness of SoHo. In the 1990s, The New York Times began to refer to the area as NoLita (North of Little Italy)

This concludes your tour. We suggest that you grab a bite at one of the restaurants or food stops in and around SoHo. We also offer a Chinatown Food Tour

 

 


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History of Soho

SoHo stands for South of Houston Street. The acronym was coined by Chester Rapkin, a city planning commissioner who published a report in the 1960s and called “The South Houston Industrial Area” and used this new term to describe the area whose boundaries are Houston Street on the north and Canal Street in the south; 6th Avenue on the west and Crosby Street on the east.

The land encompassing modern day SoHo was marsh and forest land until Dutch Settlers established farms in the area in the 1640s. An early Dutch map, the Manatus Map of 1639, shows plantations, roads, and structures in this area. A large portion of the land was owned during the 1660s by Augustus Herrman and when he died, his brother-in-law, Nicholas Bayard, inherited the property, making him the largest land owner in Manhattan. (Bayard Street in Chinatown is named after Bayard). By the late 1700s, large farms were being sold and subdivided in response to the growing population and urbanization of the City.

In the early 1800s, Broadway was paved and wealthier residents of the city began to build homes in the area to escape the increasingly crowded lower part of Manhattan. By the 1850s and 60s, many fashionable hotels such as the famous St. Nicholas and premier department stores such as Tiffany’s, Lord & Taylor and Brooks Brothers had opened up. Theaters and casinos sprang up along Broadway and the area became a hub of nightlife.  The smaller side streets such as Mercer and Prince became lined with expensive brothels catering to the well-to-do gentleman, making SoHo the city’s first red-light district.

In the 1870s and 1880s, the streets to the east and west of Broadway underwent dramatic change when industry came to town. This explosion of commercial activity prompted wealthy residents to flee the area and move further north of Manhattan. Where wealth goes, fancy department stores followed. The elegant department stores of Broadway relocated to the newer “Ladies’ Mile” in what is now the Flatiron District. (You may be interested in our Flatiron District Self Guided Tour).

Industrial growth also prompted the wide-spread use of cast iron to erect new factories in the district. Approximately 250 cast iron buildings stand in New York City and the majority of them are in SoHo. It is these cast-iron buildings that give SoHo its distinct and stunning appearance. Cast iron was an American architectural innovation and was cheaper to use for facades of buildings than stone or brick. Cast iron is also pliable and easily molded so architects and builders could create intricately designed patterns in the Classical French and Italian style while saving money. In fact, many of the stone columns you will see on the ground level of cast-iron buildings are in fact cast iron painted to resemble stone.

Another advantage of cast iron that led to major changes in how buildings were made (and ultimately altered who and what resided in the neighborhood) was its strength which allowed for window frames to be taller allowing for more sunlight into the interior of the buildings. This was ideal for factories and industrial companies which benefitted from this free source of lighting. It was the advent of steel as a major construction material that brought an end to the cast iron era.

Not only did cast iron disappear, so did the higher quality industry. From the 1910s to 1950s, SoHo’s beautiful buildings housed cheap, wholesale textile companies known as the “rag trade”. Many factories illegally employed minors and immigrants for little pay to work in horrendous conditions known as ‘sweatshops’. Numerous fires broke out in these factories and SoHo gained the nickname “Hell’s Hundred Acres.”  Eventually, even these factories shut down and moved elsewhere in the city and SoHo became an abandoned industrial wasteland.

By the late 1960s unknown artists just starting their careers, cheap rents, huge spaces, and great light, made these former factories attractive.  Some of the first artists to move into SoHo were Donald Judd, Claes Oldenburg, and Carl Andre.  Other up and coming artists flocked to SoHo like Andy Warhol, Jean- Michel Basquiat and street artist Keith Haring and this the urban wasteland became a hip, avant-garde destination. It’s estimated that by SoHo was home to about 2,000 artists by the early 1970s and by 1973 there were 33 art galleries.

The area had become so run-down and empty that city officials began discussions of construction a lower Manhattan expressway that came to be known as the LOMEX project.  LOMEX would have ripped through much of the heart of lower Manhattan and the historic buildings of SoHo would be demolished to make way for new housing construction.  Fortunately, some city officials realized that there was were still small industries that housed in the buildings of SoHo and employed many low-income and minority workers at a time when jobs were hard to come by in New York City. At the same time historic preservationists began to petition for SoHo to be designated as a protected historic district and in 1973, the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District was created. You can tell which streets are included in the district as they have brown street signs rather than the normal green signs.  SoHo’s significance in history has also been recognized nationally as it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1978.

By the mid-1970s the enormous size of the lofts and the charm of the narrow streets paved with Belgium blocks and lined with gorgeous buildings invited real estate developers to buy up buildings and rent prices sky-rocketed. Artists were priced out of the neighborhood and left for areas like Williamsburg in Brooklyn. By the mid-1980s, designer boutiques, chic restaurants, and art galleries opened and SoHo remains a fashion and art capital of the world.

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Food

Dominique Ansel Bakery  189 Spring Street between Sullivan and Thompson Streets

This is the birth place of the Cronut, a croissant-doughnut hybrid. Launched in 2013, this unique pastry innovation is trademarked by Ansel and pastry fans around the world have made it the most virally talked about dessert item in history. Almost immediately after the Cronut’s debut, a Craigslist-based black-market economy of Cronut™  scalpers began selling these $5 pastries for between $20 and $40 each! That’s just how good they are. There’s a catch though to partipate in the Cronut™ craze:  youll have to wait in line which starts to form as early as 1 hour prior to the shop’s opening (8am Mon-Sat and 9am Sunday). Arrive prior to 7:30am on a week day.  Note: you can only purchase 2 Cronut™ pastries per person.

Lombardi’s  32 Spring Street at corner of Mott Street

The perfect way to finish your tour of SoHo is to east at America’s very first pizzeria. In 1897 an Italian immigrant reinvented a Napolitano staple food, a basic tomato and bread sandwich into an open-faced baked dough with tomatoes and eventually cheese. Lombardi’s serves only pies and is CASH ONLY. Highly recommended by all the guides at Free Tours By Foot.

So-home 410 West Broadway and Spring Street

This inexpensive small shop sells delicious Mediterranean and Turkish food using organic ingredients. The simple menu includes falafel and pita bread platters, a meatball sandwich with Turkish twist, quinoa salad and bean soup.

Dean & Deluca 560 Broadway between Prince and Spring Streets

A true SoHo original, Dean & Deluca opened in 1977 at the corner of Prince and Greene streets when the neighborhood was still an edgy artist and warehouse district. Celebrities and locals flocked there and so they expanded to a huge space in its current location. They sell sandwiches, salads, pastries, fresh fruits and is also a grocery store selling imported foods from all over the world. Be a part of SoHo’s history and pop in to D&Ds.

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Guided Tours of SoHo

Several companies offer tours of SoHo.  Most offer tours that include SoHo as one part of a two or three neighborhood tour.  Some companies offer shopping and food tours of SoHo as well.  We list our pay-what-you-wish tours below along with a few other options.  However, there are several other paid tours of SoHo that may interest you.
 

 

TIP:  If you are considering purchasing a New York City tourist discount pass, keep in mind that several passes included free tours of SoHo.

Free Tours by Foot – We offer 5 tours that cover SoHo.  Be sure to check out our full tour calendar to see which tours are running during your time in New York City.

  • SoHo and Nolita Shopping Tour – This guided shopping day is for the sophisticated shopper interested in high-quality product from independent merchants, New York artists and designers, many who produce garments and one-of-a-kind items locally.

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Written by Courtney Shapiro

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