Throughout the 1960s, many bohemians moved away from Greenwich Village to an area that became known as SoHo (short for South of Houston, the street that borders the Village, which lies to the north). The average cost of a Manhattan apartment in 1960 was $78 per month, whereas SoHo lofts in the 1960s ranged from $50 to $125 for quite large spaces—and the fact that the artists’ studios also doubled as their homes lowered the overall costs even more. In addition to artist residences and galleries, these lofts were used to stage innovative performance-based art that ranged from experimental dance to the “loft jazz” scene. Jane Jacobs’s vision of a mixed-use downtown was the very thing that attracted so many outsiders, but SoHo would never have developed the way it did if Robert Moses had prevailed. His Lower Manhattan Expressway was set to cut a wide path across the borough, running east and west through Broome Street, in the heart of SoHo, which certainly would have stymied the neighborhood’s economic rebirth. In late 1968, Paula Cooper opened the first SoHo art gallery at 96 Prince Street, and next came OK Harris Gallery at 465 West Broadway. A decade later, seventy-seven galleries had been drawn to the neighborhood, where many artists lived and created their works. Its large, open lofts were supported by cast-iron columns that offered more spatial flexibility than the cramped tenement apartments on the Lower East Side—a plus for artists who created large-scale works or those who needed more room for performances.
From Chapter 8 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore