1968 was a good year for SOHO. Six years previously the City Club of New York had published a report on the city's underused commercial areas. The report’s title was “The Wastelands of New York” and in it SOHO was designated as a ‘commercial slum’. After the reports issue Robert Moses proposed an expressway through SOHO. The roadway would have gutted SOHO’S artistic community, her small businesses and the largest collection of 19th century cast iron architecture in the world. The community rallied behind urbanologist Jane Jacobs, and in 1968, the Board of Estimates rejected the proposal. SOHO society breathed a sigh of relief.
The majority of the iron facades were constructed from 1840 to 1880. High art was not the motive behind the decorous fronts rather it was sheer American expediency. Iron was a cheaper material to use than bricks or stone plus the frames could be molded elsewhere and welded together within four months. SOHO’S industrial appearance reminds the astute visitor of a time when the area was dominated by import/export houses, wholesale textile warehouses, and the "rag trade.
Wander off the main streets and look closely at the cast iron buildings and tightly knit, cobbled streets. It is here that SOHO evokes an era that was firmly rooted in unadulterated commerce.