Did you know that Soho was once known as "Hell's Hundred Acres"?
Currently one of New York City's trendiest neighborhoods, Soho has undergone a number of transformations over the past 200 years.
Throughout the first half of the 19th century, the area south of Houston Street -- today's Soho -- was an upper-class residential neighborhood, home to an array of prominent New Yorkers. In the late 1850s, stores such as Lord & Taylor and Tiffany & Co. began setting up shop in the neighborhood. As grand cast-iron buildings were erected on once-quiet streets, the growth of commercial activity prompted many wealthy residents to leave the area by about 1865.
By the turn of the century, factories started to take over the neighborhood, which soon became home to one of Manhattan's infamous red-light districts. Rampant fires -- fueled by the wooden floors and beams of the new buildings -- plagued the area, earning it the nickname "Hell's Hundred Acres."
In the 1930s, when officials unveiled plans for a Lower Manhattan Expressway that would decimate much of the area, residents again abandoned the industrial enclave for more stable neighborhoods uptown. (Plans for the expressway remained, in one form or another, until Mayor John Lindsay officially laid them to rest in 1969).
Soho remained relatively dormant until the late 1970s, when artists flocked to the debilitated area's inexpensive, spacious lofts. Today, Soho is a vibrant neighborhood, filled with art galleries, trendy shops, restaurants, and apartments.
Photograph courtesy New Jersey Institute of Technology.