Times Square, the most bustling square of New York is known for its many Broadway theatres, cinemas and electronic billboards. It is one of those places that make New York a city that never sleeps.
By the end of the nineteenth century, New York City had expanded up to 42nd street and the area was becoming the center of the city's social scene. In 1904, the New York Times built the Times Tower on 43rd street just off Broadway to replace its downtown premises. The square in front of the building was called Longacre square, but was soon renamed Times Square. The name is now used for the area between 40th and 53rd street and 6th and 9th avenue.
New York Times Headquarters
The inauguration of the New York Times' new headquarters at 1 Times Square was celebrated with a fireworks display, starting a New Year's Eve tradition which still continues today.
The first famous ball-lowering from the 1 Times Square's rooftop pole was held on New Year's Eve 1907.
Theater District and Billboards
At the start of the First World War, Times Square was the center of the Theater District and attracted a large number of visitors. This made the square an ideal place for billboards. In 1917 the first large electric display billboard was installed. Eleven years later, the first running electric sign was lit for the first time, to announce Herbert Hoover's victory in the Presidential elections. The billboards have become such a tourist attraction for the area, that the zoning now requires the buildings to be covered with billboards!
In the thirties, the Great Depression led to a sharp decline in theater attendance. Many businesses had to close down, and they were quickly replaced by strip teases and and peep shows. The area continued to attract visitors though and after the Second World War, the Theater District was booming again. At the end of the sixties, the area started to go downhill and by the mid-seventies, tourists avoided Times square, which had become a seedy, crime-ridden and drug-infested place.
In the 1980s redevelopment proposals were submitted, with little result. This changed a decade later, when the Walt Disney Company opened a Disney store on Times Square. This attracted more family-friendly businesses to the area, leading to a so-called 'Disneyfication'. The area was now - like most of New York City - a lot safer than in the early nineties and Times Square once again became a magnet for tourists and a center of New York's social scene.