3. SoHo has the world’s largest concentration of cast-iron buildings

Soho Cast Iron District in 1969
Photo courtesy of Village Preservation.

Did you know that SoHo is home to the world’s largest concentration of cast-iron buildings? In the mid- to late-1800s, cast iron was used to construct and decorate hundreds of buildings. It had a few major advantages over other building methods: it was faster, less expensive, and easier to replicate than stone or brick. These buildings also often feature fluted columns or ornate decorative elements.

SoHo’s cast-iron architecture came under threat in the mid-20th century when Robert Moses proposed plans for the Lower Manhattan Expressway, which would have cut right through the neighborhood. Fortunately, the plan was nixed and Soho’s cast-iron buildings were saved. Thanks to the preservationist group Friends of Cast Iron Architecture, much of the area was designated a historic district by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1973. The SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District was extended in 2010 and encompasses 26 blocks and around 500 buildings.