by Christopher Wallace, 07/30/2013
(From left) Street sign photo by Malcolm Brown • Bloomingdale's SoHo photo by Willie Davis
New Yorkers of all designations—young, new, native and salty curmudgeon alike—are famously passionate in both their enthusiasms and their critiques. If they dislike a book, movie or restaurant, you'll know about it. But if they love it, they'll shout it from the rooftops and over Twitter feeds, extolling the spot until it becomes a sensation. At the moment, the cronut—an ingenious hybrid of a croissant and a donut—has taken pole position on the tastemaker hot lists, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, this dream confection lives in SoHo.
The former manufacturing district south of Houston Street (and bounded on the east by Lafayette Street, on the west by the Hudson River and to the south by Canal Street) has often been the epicenter for New York City trends, eliciting no small amount of both praise and excoriation from the locals. The neighborhood is characterized by Belgian block streets and cast iron–facade buildings with enormously high ceilings—made to accommodate manufacturing equipment—and gargantuan windows, built to flood the floors with sunlight in the otherwise dimly lit gas-lamp days. Beginning in the '60s and lasting through the '90s, this area was the live/work playground of many of NYC's most famous artists.
Today those glorious 19th-century buildings, built to accommodate the commercialization of the neighborhood during its growth as a shopping destination—when Lord & Taylor, Tiffany & Co. and the grand hotels moved in along the newly vibrant shopping thoroughfare of Broadway—are once again the domains of some of the grandest retail spaces in the world. Read on for more.