Like most of Manhattan's neighborhoods, SoHo has gone through multiple incarnations to become the part of town we know today. Long, long before Prada and Bloomingdale's staked their claim along Broadway and exclusive hotels sprang up on the neighborhood's side streets, the area known as SoHo (so named to refer to the area "SOuth of HOuston" Street and above Canal Street, between Lafayette Street and the Hudson River) was a marshy meadow, and the future of New York City was only a far-off dream.
Before New York
Hard as it may be to imagine today, prior to the arrival and proliferation of European settlers in North America, Manhattan was a lush green island sparsely populated by Native American groups who hunted the forests, fished the streams, and cultivated small gardens in their villages. According to
"Manhattan in the 1600s was covered with grassy hills, streams, meadows, forests, and marshes. Trails through this wilderness connected six Indian villages that had settled here: Warpoes, Nahtouk, Ispetenga, Sappokanican, Muscoota, and Sherakopak. Present-day Broadway was then known as the Weckquaesgeck Trail."
Even after the Europeans arrived, it took some time before they put down roots and began building what could be considered permanent towns. At first, the area now known as SoHo was somewhat north of the Dutch settlement of Niew Amsterdam, confined mostly to the southern tip of Manhattan. By 1639, Dutch settlers had constructed plantations, roads, and buildings, and by the 1660's, a few powerful Dutch farmers had purchased the land to the north; including the area that was to become SoHo.