Photographing New York: SoHo and Greene Street

Cast-Iron Architecture, SoHo and Greene Street, New York Photography

(This guide is part of The New York Photographer’s Travel Book, which is available as a free digital download.)

Second to only 5th Avenue in commercial rent prices, SoHo, which stands for South of Houston, is one of the unique neighborhoods in New York. Once a manufacturing area filled with factories and sweatshops, the neighborhood is covered in the best cast-iron architecture in the world. Built around the 1850s, these buildings included the Little Singer Sewing Machine company and the Silk Exchange building in the heart of the old silk district. In fact, one of the main reasons that so many immigrants moved to the Lower East Side was because of its proximity to the jobs in SoHo.

E.V. Haughwout Building, Cast-Iron Architecture, SoHo, New York Photography
On the corner of Broadway and Broome is the E.V. Haughwout Building, a five-story structure covered on both sides with a gorgeous cast-iron exterior. Despite only being five-stories tall, this building is often considered to be the birth of the skyscraper. Because it fronted two streets, it was the first building at the time to have two cast-iron facades, the weight of which could have brought down the building. To avoid this, they decided to use the strength of the cast-iron to support the building, so they installed a structural metal frame, which was the first step towards the steel-framed skyscrapers of the early 20th century. The building also had the first successful passenger elevator, the Otis, built in 1857. The cost of the elevator was smartly negated by the fanfare that brought people into the building and its shops.

Cast-Iron Architecture, SoHo, New York Photography

The neighborhood remained a manufacturing district until the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the city went into a significant depression. As people moved out of the city and danger and drugs moved in, many of the business and factories followed, leaving huge empty spaces in SoHo. These would turn into the artist lofts that are so romantically depicted in old New York. The city became cheaper, and artists and creatives flocked to it from all over the world, living illegally in their loft workspaces. From there, many galleries popped up, the most successful of which still remain today.

Over the last 30 years, the area has transformed from making clothing to selling it, and within the bustling Broadway and the quiet side streets are a who’s who of international luxury brands. These days, there are $10 million apartments next to old artists living in $250 a month rent controlled apartments.

Prince and Broadway, SoHo Street Photography, New York Photography

SoHo Street Photography, New York Photography

I suggest wandering around and getting lost in SoHo with your camera, but two places of note are the corner of Prince Street and Broadway, which is my favorite location for street photography in the entire city, and the five-block walk of
Greene Street, which has the most incredible stretch of cast- iron in the world. Make sure to visit Greene Street between Grand Street and Canal, which is the best block of Greene Street. Between the most fashionable people in the city, the sleek window displays of the most famous luxury brands, and the cast-iron architecture, this is one of the best and most unique neighborhoods in New York for photography.

Spring and Broadway, SoHo Street Photography, New York Photography

(This guide is part of The New York Photographer’s Travel Book, which is available as a free digital download.)