Okay, full disclosure, The Bowery Boys: New York City History is one of my favorite podcasts. This episode is especially exciting for me because it highlights New York’s SoHo neighborhood, which is home to the Adafruit Factory. The SoHo district was also a manufacturing hub back in the day (the second half of the 19th Century). So, if you’re into NYC, history, and/or manufacturing, we recommend giving it a listen.
In the mid 19th century this area, centered along Broadway, became the heart of retail and entertainment, department stores and hotels setting up shop in grand palaces. (It also became New York’s most notorious brothel district). The streets between Houston and Canal became known as the Cast Iron District, thanks to an exciting construction innovation that transformed the Gilded Age.
Today SoHo contains the world’s greatest surviving collection of cast-iron architecture. But these gorgeous iron tributes to New York industry were nearly destroyed – first by rampant fires, then by Robert Moses. Community activists saved these buildings, and just in time for artists to move into their spacious loft spaces in the 1960s and 70s. The artists are still there of course but these once-desolate cobblestone streets have almost unrecognizably changed, perhaps a victim of its own success.