I am no stranger to Soho. My hairstylist is in Soho and I make an event out of each visit, wandering along different narrow streets, discovering new architectural treasures along the way. But there is always something new to discover and this time I found it by altering my gaze. I began to look down and never looked up again. Except to avoid collisions with wandering tourists
Maybe I should pause for a quick description of Soho just in case you’ve never been there
(Soho is a historic neighborhood ruined by, oops I mean filled with tourists traipsing in and out of fashionable shops on the narrow side streets, and emerging from Broadway’s conglomeration of chain stores such as HMS and Old Navy, laden down with shopping bags filled with items they could have bought at their local mall.
Among the oldest in New York City, the streets of Soho, deep down in lower Manhattan, have withstood a number of identity changes: farm land to elite mansion-filled neighborhood to red-light district to light industrial manufacturing and wholesale trading area. This last phase, starting in the Forties and lasting through the next two decades, saw the streets bustling by day, but ghostly at night.
That changed in the early seventies when artists in neighboring Greenwich Village found themselves priced out of their studios and apartments by encroaching gentrification. And they drifted into Soho, just to the south. They soon gobbled up the low rent lofts with the high ceilings and tall windows providing light and space for their works of art. And guess what – a typical story in New York – Soho now has the highest rents and most expensive real estate listings in all of Manhattan. Say good-by to the starving, or even successful artists and hello to media celebrities and technology wunderkind.
Oh a word of warning for non-New Yorkers, Soho is an acronym for South of Houston, referring to the street that marks its northern boundary. If you happen to looking for that street, it’s pronounced House-ton.)
But back to me! There I am eyes cast downward, camera-ready
My awakening began early on when I was still en route to my hair cut, so technically I was in pre-wandering mode. Crossing a narrow street, even by Soho standards, and clumsy being my middle name, I was careful to take a second look at what seemed to be a very high curb bordering a rather un-level street and that’s when I marvelled
Cobblestones! You don’t see these in other parts of the city.
A couple of hours later, now officially exploring, I chose Prince Street as my route west and began to notice what seemed to be an inordinate variety of pipes. No, not the smoking kind.
In all shapes and sizes
And pipes weren’t the only cast iron sights. Although New Yorkers tend to detour around these
I’ve only heard of one or two incidents when they gave way beneath a pedestrian– but you can’t be too careful, it would be a nasty fall.
And then, there were the delightful odds and ends.
and The Un-Fancy
Mind you, all this was, and I was still on Prince Street!
Where they love their trees
Eventually I had to head north for the trek up to Grand Central Station. But I had to take my camera out one more time – on Lexington Avenue . I wanted to show you that we, New Yorkers do have manners.
So if I bump into you because I’m looking down, I’ll be sure to say “I’m sorry”.