“But I’ve never heard of Longacre Square!” you exclaim, “so how can it be awesome?” I myself had never heard of it until yesterday, when I was perusing my beloved Shorpy Historical Photo Archive (did you know you can subscribe for daily photo emails?? I totally did that and it’s SO exciting). As it turns out, Longacre Square was in fact a momentous little spot, as that’s what Times Square was called before the Times Tower opened for business in 1904.
So in today’s installment of Tania’s Nifty New York Photos (or, Tania Still Regrets Not Taking That History of NYC Elective in High School), I bring you Times Square before it was formally known as such. Photos and some exciting historical tidbits after the jump!
As more profitable commerce and industrialization of lower Manhattan pushed homes, theaters, and prostitution northward from the Tenderloin District, Long Acre Square became nicknamed the Thieves Lair for its rollicking reputation as a low entertainment district. The first theater on the square, the Olympia, was built by cigar manufacturer and impresarioOscar Hammerstein I. “By the early 1890s this once sparsely settled stretch of Broadway was ablaze with electric light and thronged by crowds of middle- and upper-class theatre, restaurant and cafe patrons.”
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.
Ok this one is cheating a little, because Longacre Square had already been renamed Time Square by the time this photo was taken, but I wanted to include it for it’s neat historical significance. Taken on New Year’s Eve in 1904, this photo depicts the first NYE celebration held at Times Square. At the time it was celebrated with fireworks; in 1907 officials decided fireworks were too risky and the famous ball drop was introduced.
Thus concludes today’s photo foraging, this time with an added dose of real live historical facts. Hope you all enjoyed this little trip down memory lane as much as I did. And if you didn’t, tough. This is my blog and I’ll post about whatever geeky nonsense I damn well please.