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Get to know Soho/Nolita

Soho — which sits south of Houston (hence the name), north of Canal, and between Sixth Avenue and Broadway — is an architectural time capsule from the days when cast iron was all the rage. The innovative construction technique offered a cheaper alternative to carved stone for the decorative elements on facades. (It would, in turn, be largely replaced by steel.) Soho’s historic district boasts the world’s largest collection of such buildings, most from the 1880s and ’90s, when they served as textile warehouses and factories. Beginning in the 1960s, artists began converting spaces into studios and apartments. Today, high-end retail and restaurants occupy lower floors in what has become one of Manhattan’s most upscale neighborhoods. Nolita comprises the 16 blocks west of Soho, over to the Bowery. The new portmanteau (for “North of Little Italy”) was bestowed in the 1990s to reflect the upscale turn that the neighborhood had taken.
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History & Culture

Soho’s period as a residential neighborhood in the 19th century was relatively short. By the middle of the 1800s, rowhouses gave way to department stores and theaters, followed by textile manufacturers who dominated the neighborhood when its signature cast-iron buildings were erected. As the textile industry became increasingly concentrated in the southern United States, Soho’s factories and warehouses were gradually abandoned. In the 1960s, artists began to move in, starting gentrification that resulted in higher real estate prices and, later, high-end retail and restaurants. Today, Soho is better known as a shopping destination than as the epicenter of New York’s 1970s art scene, though there are still a number of galleries, and the International Center of Photography is in neighboring Nolita. While it sits next to Soho, Nolita’s evolution was on a distinctly different path, with the once predominantly Italian residents selling their homes to those priced out of Soho.

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Dine & Shop

Soho caters to two sorts of shoppers. Along Broadway, you’ll find familiar U.S. and international brands, such as Banana Republic, Converse, Nike, Uniqlo, Zara, and others. Head west and you’ll generally find more upscale one, including Burberry, Chanel, Coach, Louis Vuitton, and Ted Baker, as well as some of Soho’s remaining art galleries (Jeffrey Deitch, Peter Freeman, Inc., Team Gallery). Nolita’s stores tend to be more unique to their neighborhood, from the beloved McNally Jackson bookstore on Prince Street to the edgy SuperTrash (a Dutch womenswear line) and Warm boutique. A stroll along Elizabeth Street provides a good introduction to Nolita’s variety of eating and shopping options. Both neighborhoods are home to some of the city’s best restaurants, whether you want to splurge on a meal at the Dutch or Balthazar or opt for more budget-friendly tacos at La Esquina, pizza at Lombardi’s, or bagel sandwiches at Black Seed.