Little Bits of History

April 8

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 8, 2017

1904: Longacre Square gets a new name. The Dutch were the first Europeans to settle Manhattan Island and when they arrived there were three small streams which united at what is today, 10th Avenue and 40th Street. The stream then ran through what was called the Great Kill where fish and waterfowl were for sale. The stream entered into the Hudson River at present day 42nd Street. The region became known for carriage-making. John Morin Scott’s manor house was located at 43rd Street prior to the Revolutionary War and he was the overseer of much of the land used for farming and breeding horses. In the early 19th century, John Jacob Astor took control and sold off lots, at a great profit, as what was by then New York City grew.

As lower Manhattan became more upscale, homes, theaters, and prostitution were pushed north toward and Longacre Square which became known as Thieves Lair because of pickpockets and the low entertainment offered. The first theater on the square was built by Oscar Hammerstein, a cigar manufacturer, and by the 1890s Broadway was “ablaze with electric light and thronged by crowds of middle- and upper-class theatre, restaurant and café patrons”. In 1904 Adolph S Ochs moved his thriving newspaper to the newly built skyscraper on 42nd Street at Longacre Square. Ochs persuaded Mayor George McClellan, Jr. to build a subway station there and then, on this day, the name was changed to Times Square. Three weeks later, the first electrified ad showed up on the Horse Exchange (now the Winter Garden Theatre).

While the newspaper changed venues in 1913, the name has stayed the same. It is sometimes called by other names: The Crossroads of the World, The Center of the Universe, or the heart of The Great White Way. The area at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue and stretching from West 42nd to West 47th Streets is one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the world. It is the center for the Broadway Theater District and is a much visited tourist destination. About 330,000 people pass through the area daily and 50 million yearly tourists are a great part of that number. On some of the busiest days, 460,000 people are there. Since 1907, they show up on New Year’s Eve to watch the ball drop from the Times Building, now One Times Square. About a million show up for this event.

Today, the Square is known for art and commerce. Electric and neon signs light up the night. Zipper news crawls across screens begging for “eyes on” views. There are landmarks in abundance including the origin of the Times name. Many important buildings are on or adjacent to Times Square as are many corporate buildings. The area is universally recognizable and so is often used in movies and in some of them, the Square and New York City are destroyed. Or else it is depicted as a busy section of urban life in the US. However it is shown, it is iconic.

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

How can you be organized when you’re in Times Square? – Mary-Kate Olsen

I always have a positive reaction to Times Square – you’ve got so many people passing through here, so many cultures, and so many people merging into the central community of New York City. This is the hub of America. – Dhani Jones

L.A., it’s nice, but I think of sunshine and people on rollerblades eating sushi. New York, I think of nighttime, I think of Times Square and Broadway and nightlife and the city that never sleeps. – Jimmy Fallon

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