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
December 31, 1904: New York City hosts a New Year’s Eve celebration held at Longacre Square. This major intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue actually encompasses several blocks. It stretches from West 42nd Street to West 47th Street and includes the blocks between Sixth and Eighth Avenues. In the heart of Manhattan, it is smaller than Red Square in Moscow and Trafalgar Square in London. However, it is still recognized worldwide. Today it is called Times Square and is the site of a major New Year’s Eve party each year.
The New Year’s Eve celebrations of 1904-1906 were brightened by fireworks. Since 1907 a lighted ball has been dropped from One Times Square. The first ball was made of iron and wood and weighed 700 pounds. It was illuminated by 100 25-watt light bulbs. In 1920 a 400 pound ball made of iron replaced it. During World War II (1942 and 1943) the ball was not dropped because of wartime light restrictions. Instead, at midnight there was a moment of silence in deference to all those fighting for freedom around the world.
In 1955 a new aluminum ball was put in place and weighed only 150 pounds. During the 1980s with an ad campaign of “I Luv NY” and the era of the Big Apple, lights were changed to red and a green stem was added. By the end of the decade, white lights again were in place. In 1995, upgrades to the ball added rhinestones and strobe lights with a computer controlled light show. For the worldwide millennial celebration of 2000, a totally new Waterford Crystal ball was made weighing 1,070 pounds. The exterior was lit with 168 halogen bulbs to enhance the 504 crystal triangles. The interior was lighted with 208 clear bulbs and 56 bulbs each in red, yellow, green, and blue. Another 96 high intensity strobe lights were added. The entire 696 lights and 90 rotating crystals were computer controlled.
New Year’s Eve is the final day of the Gregorian calendar. Western culture celebrates with parties spanning the transition of one year to the next. New Zealand is the first country to celebrate each year because of its position close to the International Date Line. Fireworks are a popular entertainment feature around the globe. Champagne is often used to help welcome the new year or perhaps to help forget the old. However you look at it, may you find peace in the New Year.
“Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to.” – Bill Vaughn
“Despite the common assumption that New Year’s Eve is a wall-to-wall party, this poll finds that most people will be safe at home celebrating with friends and family, with the Times Square countdown in the background.” – Maurice Carroll
“The Old Year has gone. Let the dead past bury its own dead. The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time. All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months!” – Edward Payson Powell
“New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” – Mark Twain
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