Cast-iron buildings and cobblestone streets create a unique ambience for this lower Manhattan neighborhood, while the former actually gave the area its original name of the Cast Iron District. Before becoming the hip and trendy SoHo of today, the Cast Iron District was born in the 1850s as a home to factories, warehouses and sweatshops. As labor laws were enacted and high-end businesses moved uptown in the late 1900s, SoHo's reputation declined until it became known as "hell's hundred acres."
The area may have continued as a slum without the imagination of artists, who saw excellent studios in the lofty rooms with large windows combined with cheap rent. By the 1970s — when the area was officially termed SoHo, an acronym for South of Houston — art galleries and new residents set the area ablaze with new life and culture. SoHo became a haven for creativity, commerce and residential life.
SoHo is wedged roughly between Houston Street to the north, Canal Street to the south, Lafayette Street to the east and 6th Avenue to the west. Shoppers relish the eclectic mix of boutiques, galleries and specialty stores. SoHo lofts still offer unique apartments for renters, but the area is also seeing new construction, such as the upscale development 40 Mercer, designed by Jean Nouvel and Andre Balazs. Posh hotels and restaurants have also sprung up throughout SoHo, making the neighborhood even more of a must-visit attraction to tourists.