Times Square is a major commercial intersection in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue and stretching from West 42nd to West 47th Streets. The extended Times Square area, also called the Theatre District, consists of the blocks between Sixth and Eighth Avenues from east to west, and West 40th and West 53rd Streets from south to north, making up the western part of the commercial area of Midtown Manhattan.
Formerly named Longacre Square, Times Square was renamed in April 1904 after The New York Times moved its headquarters to the newly erected Times Building, which is now called One Times Square and is the site of the annualball drop on New Year’s Eve. Times Square, nicknamed “The Crossroads of the World” and “The Great White Way,” has achieved the status of an iconic world landmark and is a symbol of New York City and the United States. The northern triangle of Times Square is technically Duffy Square, dedicated in 1937 to Chaplain Francis P. Duffy of New York City’s “Fighting 69th” Infantry Regiment; a memorial to Duffy is located there, along with a statue of George M. Cohan, and the TKTS discount theatre tickets booth. The stepped red roof of the TKTS booth also provides seating for various events. The Duffy Statue and the square were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
Before and after the American Revolution, the area belonged to John Morin Scott, a general of the New York militia where he served under George Washington. Scott’s manor house was at what is now 43rd Street, surrounded by countryside used for farming and breeding horses. In the first half of the 19th century it became one of the prized possessions of John Jacob Astor, who made a second fortune selling off lots to hotels and other real estate concerns as the city rapidly spread uptown. In 1904, New York Times publisher Adolph S. Ochs moved the newspaper’s operations to a new skyscraper on 42nd Street at Longacre Square. Ochs persuaded Mayor George B. McClellan, Jr. to construct a subway station there, and the area was renamed “Times Square” on April 8, 1904. Just three weeks later, the first electrified advertisement appeared on the side of a bank at the corner of 46th Street and Broadway. The New York Times, according to Nolan, moved to more spacious offices across Broadway in 1913. The old Times Building was later named the Allied Chemical Building. Now known simply as One Times Square, it is famed for the Times Square Ball drop on its roof every New Year’s Eve. Also in 1913, the Lincoln Highway Association, headed by entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher, chose the intersection of 42nd Street and Broadway, at the southeast corner of Times Square, to be the Eastern Terminus of the Lincoln Highway, the first road across the United States, which originally spanned 3,389 miles (5,454 km) coast-to-coast through 13 states to its Western Terminus in Lincoln Park in San Francisco, California. As the growth in New York City continued, Times Square quickly became a cultural hub full of theaters, music halls, and upscale hotels.
Times Square quickly became New York’s agora, a place to gather to await great tidings and to celebrate them, whether a World Series or a presidential election
—James Traub, The Devil’s Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square
Celebrities such as Irving Berlin, Fred Astaire, and Charlie Chaplin were closely associated with Times Square in the 1910s and 1920s. During this period, the area was nicknamed The Tenderloin because it was supposedly the most desirable location in Manhattan. However, it was during this period that the area was besieged by crime and corruption, in the form of gambling and prostitution; one case that garnered huge attention was the arrest and subsequent execution of police officer Charles Becker.
The general atmosphere changed with the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s. Times Square acquired a reputation as a dangerous neighborhood in the following decades. From the 1960s to the early 1990s, the seediness of the area, especially due its go-go bars, sex shops, and adult theaters, became an infamous symbol of the city’s decline. In the 1980s, a commercial building boom began in the western parts of the Midtown as part of a long-term development plan developed under Mayor Ed Koch and David Dinkins. In the mid-1990s, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (1994–2002) led an effort to “clean up” the area, increasing security, closing pornographic theaters, pressuring drug dealers and “squeegee men” to relocate, and opening more tourist-friendly attractions and upscale establishments. Advocates of the remodeling claim that the neighborhood is safer and cleaner. Detractors have countered that the changes have homogenized or “Disneyfied” the character of Times Square and have unfairly targeted lower-income New Yorkers from nearby neighborhoods such as Hell’s Kitchen. In 1990, the state of New York took possession of six of the nine historic theatres on 42nd Street, and the New 42nd Street non-profit organization was appointed to oversee their restoration and maintenance. The theatres underwent renovation for Broadway shows, conversion for commercial purposes, or demolition.
The theaters of Broadway and the huge number of animated neon and LED signs have long made them one of New York’s iconic images, and a symbol of the intensely urban aspects of Manhattan. Times Square is the only neighborhood with zoning ordinances requiring building owners to display illuminated signs.[ The density of illuminated signs in Times Square now rivals that of Las Vegas. Officially, signs in Times Square are called “spectaculars”, and the largest of them are called “jumbotrons.”
Notable signage includes the Toshiba billboard directly under the NYE ball drop and the curved seven-story NASDAQ sign at the NASDAQ MarketSite at 4 Times Square on 43rd Street and the curved Coca-Cola sign located underneath another large LED display owned and operated by Samsung. Both the Coca-Cola sign and Samsung LED displays were built by LED display manufacturer Daktronics. Times Square’s first environmentally friendly billboard powered by wind and solar energy was first lit on December 4, 2008.
In 1992, the Times Square Alliance (formerly the Times Square Business Improvement District, or “BID” for short), a coalition of city government and local businesses dedicated to improving the quality of commerce and cleanliness in the district, started operations in the area. Times Square now boasts attractions such as ABC’s Times Square Studios, where Good Morning America is broadcast live, an elaborate Toys “Я” Us store, and competing Hershey’s and M&M’s stores across the street from each other, as well as restaurants such as Ruby Foo’s (Chinese food), the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (seafood), Planet Hollywood Restaurant and Bar (theme restaurant) and Carmine’s (Italian) along with a number of multiplex movie theaters. It has also attracted a number of large financial, publishing, and media firms to set up headquarters in the area. A larger presence of police has improved the safety of the area. In 2002, New York City’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani, gave the oath of office to the city’s next mayor, Michael Bloomberg, at Times Square after midnight on January 1 as part of the 2001–2002 New Year’s celebration. Approximately 500,000 revelers attended. Security was high following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, with more than 7,000 New York City police officers on duty in the Square, twice the number for an ordinary year.
From August 14, 2003 to August 15, 2003, the lights of Times Square went dark as a result of the 2003 Northeast blackout, which paralyzed most of the region and parts of Canada for over 24 hours. Power was finally restored to the area on the evening of Friday, August 15. On the morning of March 6, 2008 a small bomb caused minor damage but no reported injuries.
On February 26, 2009, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that traffic lanes along Broadway from 42nd Street to 47th Street would be de-mapped starting Memorial Day 2009 and transformed into pedestrian plazas until at least the end of the year as a trial. The same was done from 33rd to 35th Street. The goal is to ease traffic congestion throughout the Midtown grid. The results will be closely monitored to determine if the project works and should be extended.” Bloomberg also stated that he believes the street shutdown will make New York more livable by reducing pollution, cutting down on pedestrian accidents and helping traffic flow more smoothly.
The original seats put out for pedestrians were inexpensive multicolored plastic lawn chairs, a source of amusement to many New Yorkers. They lasted from the onset of the plaza transformation until August 14, 2009, when they were ceremoniously bundled together in an installation christened “Now You See It, Now You Don’t” by the artist Jason Peters. They were shortly replaced by sturdier metal furniture, and on February 11, 2010, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the pedestrian plazas would remain permanent. In February 2011, Times Square became smoke free as New York extended the outdoors smoking ban to the area. The measure will see smokers fined $50 if they light up
Times Square is the site of the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop. On December 31, 1907, a ball signifying New Year’s Day was first dropped at Times Square, and the Square has held the main New Year’s celebration in New York City ever since. On that night, hundreds of thousands of people congregate to watch the Waterford Crystal ball being lowered on a pole atop the building, marking the start of the new year. It replaced a lavish fireworks display from the top of the building that was held from 1904 to 1906, but stopped by city officials because of the danger of fire. Beginning in 1908, and for more than eighty years thereafter, Times Square sign maker Artkraft Strauss was responsible for the ball-lowering. During World War II, a minute of silence, followed by a recording of church bells pealing, replaced the ball drop because of wartime blackout restrictions. Today, Countdown Entertainment and One Times Square handle the New Year’s Eve event in conjunction with the Times Square Alliance. A new energy-efficient LED ball, celebrating the centennial of the ball drop, debuted for the arrival of 2008. The 2008/2009-ball, which was dropped on New Year’s Eve (Wednesday, December 31, 2008) for the arrival of 2009, is larger and has become a permanent installation as a year-round attraction, being used for celebrations such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween. On average, about 1 million revelers crowd Times Square for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. However, for the millennium celebration on December 31, 1999, published reports stated approximately two million people overflowed Times Square, flowing from 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue and all the way back on Broadway and Seventh Avenues to 59th Street, making it the largest gathering in Times Square since August 1945 during celebrations marking the end of World War II. In 1972, Dick Clark began hosting a live half-hour NBC special (two years later, it moved to ABC where it has aired ever since) detailing the event entitled Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, which not only aired the descent of the ball, but also performances from popular bands and commentary from various hosts in other cities, notably Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Orlando. During the millennium celebrations in 1999, Peter Jennings based ABC’s operations in Times Square, hosting ABC 2000 Today.
- One Times Square (site of the New Year’s Eve ball drop)
- Bertelsmann Building
- Brill Building
- Thomson Reuters Building (3 Times Square)
- Times Square Tower
- New York Times Tower
- Bank of America Tower
- The Orion
- AXA Center
- One Astor Plaza
- 1500 Broadway
- Paramount Theatre
- Church of Saint Mary the Virgin
- Condé Nast Building (4 Times Square)
- 1585 Broadway
- 810 7th Avenue
- 5 Times Square
- 3 Times Square
- 11 Times Square (Times Square Plaza)
- The Bowtie Building (1530 Broadway)
Discover a wealth of information on travelling by Motorhome, Caravan or Boat when planning your holiday or trip of a lifetime
Which ever way you wish to travel, do it with style!