The Germans had Kleindeutschland in the East Village. The Chinese had Mott Street. Eastern European Jews settled on the Lower East Side.
And from the 1870s to 1890s, approximately 20,000 French immigrants lived and worked in today’s Soho, roughly between Washington Square South and Grand Street and West Broadway and Greene Street.
Bakeries, butchers, cafes, shops, and “innumerable basement restaurants, where dinner, vin compris, may be had for the veriest trifle” occupied the short buildings and tenements of this expat enclave.
An 1879 article in Scribner’s Monthly took readers on a wildly descriptive sojourn through the Quartier Francais, as the writer calls it.
It’s not always so flattering. “The Commune has its emissaries and exiles here. There are swarthy faces which have gladdened in mad grimace over the flames of the Hotel de Ville and become the hue of copper bronze under the sun of New Caledonia.”
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