Manhattans-French-Quarter_Boulangerie-Francaise_Green-Street_bakery_NYC_Untapped-Cities_Stephanie-GeierA former French bakery on Green Street. Image via Scribner’s.

New York City is currently home to several ethnic enclaves, but did you know that there also used to be a “Little France” in Soho? According to a recent post by Ephemeral New York, from the 1870s until the 1890s, Soho, specifically in the area between Washington Square South and Grand Street, and West Broadway and Greene Street was home to somewhere between 20,000 and 24,000 French immigrants.


Gateway-to-soho-599 broadway-forrest-myers-Stephanie-Geier-NYC-Stephanie-GeierThe Gateway to Soho at 599 Broadway

The bright blue, eight-story art piece adorning a wall on 599 Broadway certainly stands out among the surrounding buildings and billboards, catching the eye of pedestrians. Unknown to many of them, however, this piece, called “The Gateway to Soho” (or “The Wall”), actually has a rocky history and even became the subject of a federal lawsuit.


Soho-484 Broome Street-Fleitmann and Co-NYC-condominiums-NYC-Untapped Cities-Stephanie Geier

Known for trendy shopping and restaurants, the Tribeca and Soho neighborhoods currently have the two highest medium sales prices in New York City. However, even before the area transformed into a hip, artistic hub, commercial and industrial activities heavily dominated Lower Manhattan.

Many of these condos and lofts once served other functions, as you can tell from their distinct architecture. As luxury homes continue to flourish in this area, read on to find out what some of these buildings used to be.


Fueled Collective-Mock Apple Store-Soho-Broadway-Evan Desmond Yee-Kickstarter-NYCPhoto via Evan Desmond Yee

First things first, the mock Apple Store at Fueled Collective, an app development firm in Soho, doesn’t quite look like the version above that artist Evan Desmond Yee created off his successful Kickstarter campaign. But it has all the same gadgets and serves a similar purpose: a stinging contemporary on how society is addicted to technology and startup culture. On a visit to this scale-down version in the Fueled Collective headquarters in Soho, you’ll discover these “products” have unexpected names.


Pearlfisher Soho JumpIn! Untapped Cities AFineLyneJumpIn! at Pearlfisher’s Soho offices

JumpIn!, located in the creative agency Pearlfisher in Soho, has taken New York by storm. Opened last Friday to the public, the ball pit for adults contains 80,000 snow-white balls, the brainchild of the company’s Senior Creative Strategist, Jack Hart.

Inspired by playful days in the snow, JumpIn! was originally a chance for employees at the Pearlfischer Gallery in Hammersmith, United Kingdom to engage in their inner child and take a break from their stress. It was so successful, the firm opened up the installation to the public for free, with a suggested minimal donation to the charity Right to Play. Now, Pearlfisher New York is hosting JumpIn! in their Soho offices, located in a converted textile warehouse and spread over two big open floors with three roof terraces.


Francoise Schein-Manhattan Subway Map Floating on NYC Sidewalk-Soho-Greene Street-NYC-2Photo via Mashable

Embedded into the sidewalk in front of 110 Greene Street just south of Prince Street is a floating subway map 90 feet long by 12 feet wide. The work has all the quintessential elements of a New York City artist’s story. An artist begins her career on the streets of Soho. She seeks to install a public art piece (supported by a real-estate developer) but has to get it passed by the community board. Then she is mocked by an officer in the Department of Transportation for her idea, this was the 1980s after all. But in an act of persistence, it gets approved, and the piece of work becomes an award-winning piece beloved by residents.