Less than 300 years ago, Spring Street — the throbbing west-to-east thoroughfare running through central SoHo — was smack dab in a swamp. In the early 18th century, most of SoHo (that area south of Houston Street, of course) was primarily rural, consisting of hills, woodlands, and the aforementioned Beekman’s swamp. Aaron Burr (of dueling fame) even had an estate near where Spring meets Sixth Avenue today.
By the early 1800s, the neighborhood began to transform into a wealthy residential enclave, dotted with gaslight streetlamps and cobblestone streets — a quasi Fifth Avenue of its time. Cast-iron buildings were introduced to SoHo in the mid-19th century, and commerce took over in the form of industrial enterprises such as textile factories.
When affluent New Yorkers eventually vacated SoHo for uptown’s quieter streets, artists swooped in and reigned over the area from the 1960s until the late ‘90s. These days, Spring Street is a mish-mash of hip stores and historical artifacts. Minimalist artist Donald Judd’s former five-story residence-turned-museum at 101 Spring Street resides on the same block as cupcake emporium Baked by Melissa. And that bastion to French cuisine, Balthazar, is still an ideal place to nip into for a pain au chocolat while on a shopping break.
No matter what you seek (be it ready-to-wear or simply a stroll and a cappuccino), you’re certain to find it along Spring Street.
From the classic Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman to a ‘60s Massimo Vignelli calendar, the MoMA Design Store is the place to shop for the person who has everything. This fall, new pieces include Damien Hirst’s brilliantly hued Spin plate (above; $48) and the incredibly versatile Bao Bao tote (below; $425) by legendary designer Issey Miyake. And be sure to pop downstairs to peruse the extensive bookstore and in-house Muji boutique. 81 Spring Street (Broadway/Crosby Street); 646-613-1367; momastore.org
For nearly two decades, Theory has been about clean silhouettes, smart suiting (that you actually want to wear), and crisp tailoring. The fall collection hits all the brand’s signature marks and then some. Pop into their sleek SoHo outpost and be sure to scoop up their flouncy, flannel plaid skirt ($575). It’s straight off the runway and ideal for seamless, transitional dressing. 151 Spring Street (Wooster Street/West Broadway); 212-226-3691; theory.com
To achieve that coveted French girl cool aesthetic a stop in Comptoir des Cotonniers is practically de rigueur. The shop’s whitewashed walls and rustic wood floors let the stylish separates and chic accessories take center stage. This season, we’re partial to the supple leather jackets (above; $550) and cozy cashmere sweaters ($220). Décor accents like a glass bowl full of meringues add just the right amount of cheeky, Gallic charm. 155 Spring Street (Wooster Street/West Broadway); 212-274-0830; comptoirdescotonniers.com
While Longchamp may best be known for its iconic totes, the real pièce de résistance at its SoHo outpost is the hot-rolled steel staircase (weighing in at a whopping 55 tons) that undulates up from the ground floor to the main showroom at the top. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of their Le Pliage bag, the store recently launched a customization bar, where you can create your own monogrammed purse and choose from eight leather shades. $600-$790. 132 Spring Street (Greene/Wooster Streets); 212-343-7444; longchamp.com