Edward LaGrassa was an architecture student in 1969 when he took these photos of cast iron buildings and structures, largely in SoHo and Tribeca, as well as in Harlem and Upper Manhattan. He took the pictures for a school project.

At the time LaGrassa took these photos, appreciation of cast iron architecture and the neighborhood of SoHo were at turning points. Long seen as outdated relics, by the late 1960s cast iron buildings were experiencing a newfound appreciation for both their technological innovations and their elaborate but mass-produced architectural detail, even as dozens were being demolished in Lower Manhattan for the Washington Street Urban Renewal project, and more demolitions were planned and contemplated. SoHo, with the largest concentration of cast iron architecture in the world, had been slated for demolition by Robert Moses for his Lower Manhattan Expressway plan, which was only finally laid to rest in 1968. When LaGrassa took these pictures, the Washington Street Urban Renewal plan was well underway, and he documented buildings as they were being demolished, such as the revered Bogardus Building at Washington and Murray Streets. Meanwhile, empty and abandoned buildings in SoHo, also captured by LaGrassa, were being furtively repurposed by artists, turning industrial spaces into live/work lofts. 

LaGrassa captured this moment of transition as it was happening. SoHo, Tribeca, and their cast iron masterpieces were targeted for destruction, while preservationists, artists, and urban pioneers were reimagining them for new lives and new appreciation.


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