Posts Tagged ‘SoHo’

The foundries that built cast-iron Soho

February 16, 2010

Cast-iron architecture is all over New York City. But Soho just might be the cast-iron capital of the world—a handful of streets packed with dozens of beautifully preserved iron buildings (like these on Broadway between Prince and Spring, circa 1905.)

Besides their lovely facades, cast-iron structures had a few other advantages: They were less susceptible to fire, and they allowed for huge windows, providing lots of light and air.

But someone had to supply the iron and the manpower to construct them. If you look closely at the base of the buildings, you can still see some of the plaques bearing the names of the foundries who did the work.

Lindsay, Graff & Mecquier helped build several Soho buildings, including 83 Grand Street—a former silk warehouse put up in 1872.

S.B. Ferdon’s work can be seen on Wooster Street:

This Aetna Iron Works inscription is interesting because of the street the foundry was located on: Goerck Street.

Goerck Street? It doesn’t exist anymore. It used to be a bleak little strip near the Williamsburg Bridge renamed Baruch Place (after physician Simon Baruch) in 1933.

New York is a hell of a town

October 22, 2009

More than a few city neighborhoods currently or used to start with “Hell.” Hell’s Kitchen is the most famous—and enduring. (C’mon, does anyone really call it Clinton?)

The nabe’s moniker but it may have first been used in the late 1800s to describe the revolting slums and ferocious gangs in the West 30s and 40s.


Hell Gate is the name of the once-dangerous tidal strait separating Astoria from Randall’s Island. It’s also a lovely bridge that connects these two land masses across the East River.

Was Hell Gate once the name of the neighborhood on the Manhattan side of the East River too? I’m not sure, but maybe—there’s a Hell Gate Station post office on East 110th Street.


And let’s not forget the fantastically named Hell’s Hundred Acres, a gritty term for pre-1970s Soho. The beautiful cast-iron buildings that today house million-dollar lofts were used for decades as warehouses and manufacturing sites. 


Safety codes weren’t followed and the buildings allowed to deteriorate, so they often went up in flames—hence the nickname. This photo documents a 1958 fire in a Wooster Street factory that killed six firefighters. Hell’s Hundred Acres indeed.

A glimpse into Soho’s manufacturing past

September 20, 2009

This remarkably well-preserved three-story faded ad was put up by a box company on Spring and Wooster Streets—a nice reminder that Soho was once a manufacturing neighborhood with many small factories. Note the great old phone exchange CA 6-7390.


What happened to the box factory? Probably turned into condos. A little research shows that there was a box company at 73 Wooster Street. Shut down in the mid ’90s, it was renovated into multimillion-dollar loft condos within a few years.

Comics and zines for sale in SoHo

February 25, 2009

Remember zines? They had quite a heyday in the late 80s and 90s.

I’ve seen this place spelled Sohozat and SoHo Zat. Either way, it was a comics emporium in the late 70s and 80s on West Broadway and Grand.

The ad comes from the August 1984 issue of the East Village Eye. 


Copy editors desperately needed!

April 11, 2008

Please apply at the New York City Department of Transportation ASAP.