Times Square, often referred to as “The Crossroads of the World” and “The Great White Way,” is one of the most iconic and bustling locations in New York City, if not the world. Its name is synonymous with bright lights, Broadway shows, and the famous New Year’s Eve ball drop. But have you ever wondered why it’s called Times Square? To understand the origins of this name, we need to delve into the history of this remarkable place.
In the late 19th century, the area now known as Times Square was a far cry from its present-day glory. It was a place that would be unrecognizable to most modern New Yorkers. The region was a part of Longacre Square, named after the horse and carriage trade that dominated the area. Longacre Square was a hub for transportation, filled with horse-drawn carriages, stables, and farriers, serving as a reminder of a bygone era.
However, this began to change in 1904, when a significant event occurred that would eventually lead to the square’s famous name. Enter Adolph S. Ochs, the publisher of The New York Times. Ochs had recently completed the construction of a new headquarters for his newspaper, the Times Building, which was located at the intersection of Seventh Avenue, Broadway, and West 42nd Street, right in the heart of Longacre Square.
Ochs was a visionary and a shrewd businessman, and he saw an opportunity to transform the area into a thriving commercial and entertainment district. He believed that the presence of The New York Times in the area would give it a sense of legitimacy and attract businesses and visitors. To make his vision a reality, Ochs lobbied the city to change the square’s name to “Times Square” and even financed a New Year’s Eve celebration on December 31, 1904, complete with fireworks, to mark the occasion.
The name change was approved, and on April 8, 1904, Longacre Square officially became Times Square. This was a pivotal moment in the history of the area, setting the stage for its transformation into the vibrant, bustling, and world-famous location we know today.
With The New York Times as the square’s anchor, other businesses soon followed suit. The area became a hub for advertising agencies, theaters, and entertainment venues. One of the most significant developments in Times Square’s history was the opening of the first electrically lit billboard in 1904, which paved the way for the dazzling billboards and neon signs that would come to define the square’s appearance.
Broadway theaters also played a crucial role in the square’s transformation. The Theater District, centered around Times Square, became the epicenter of American theater. Famous theaters like the New Amsterdam, the Lyceum, and the Palace Theatre lined the streets, attracting theatergoers from all over the country. This concentration of theaters led to the nickname “The Great White Way,” as the bright lights of Broadway shows lit up the night.
As the 20th century progressed, Times Square continued to evolve. It became a symbol of American commercialism, with companies vying for attention on the ever-expanding and more extravagant billboards. The square’s reputation as a center of entertainment grew, drawing tourists and locals alike. Throughout the years, Times Square witnessed countless historic events, including the famous V-J Day kiss, which celebrated the end of World War II, and the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop, which has become an internationally televised tradition.
However, it’s essential to note that Times Square also experienced its share of challenges. In the 1960s and 1970s, the area fell into disrepair, plagued by crime, urban decay, and the proliferation of adult entertainment businesses. This decline earned it a reputation as a seedy and unsafe place.
Yet, Times Square’s fortunes began to change in the 1990s. A concerted effort to revitalize the area was undertaken by city officials, business leaders, and civic organizations. The focus was on cleaning up the square, reducing crime, and reestablishing it as a family-friendly destination. The Walt Disney Company opened a flagship store in the area, signaling a new era of family-oriented entertainment.
The redevelopment efforts culminated in the 21st century with the pedestrianization of Times Square. In 2009, the city closed parts of Broadway to vehicular traffic, creating a pedestrian plaza that allowed visitors to enjoy the square without the constant flow of cars and buses. This transformation has made Times Square more welcoming and safer for the millions of people who visit each year.
Today, Times Square stands as a symbol of New York City and American culture. It is a place where people from all walks of life come together to experience the magic of Broadway, witness the iconic New Year’s Eve ball drop, and marvel at the bright lights and billboards that illuminate the night sky. It is a place of celebration, entertainment, and endless possibilities.
Final Conclusion on Why is it Called Times Square?
In conclusion, the name “Times Square” is a testament to the vision of Adolph S. Ochs, who saw the potential of an area once dominated by horse-drawn carriages and transformed it into a global icon of commerce and entertainment.
Over the past century, Times Square has evolved and adapted to changing times, but it has always remained a symbol of the vibrant spirit of New York City and the United States.
Whether you’re a visitor or a resident, Times Square continues to captivate and inspire, reminding us that the crossroads of the world can be a place of limitless dreams and opportunities.