In 1904, a bit of real estate in the middle of Manhattan called Long Acre Square got a new name. New York Times publisher Adolph S. Ochs had just moved his newspaper’s operations to a new skyscraper on 42nd Street. He persuaded the City of New York to construct a subway station there, and the area was renamed Times Square. Just three weeks later, the first electrified sign appeared at the corner of 46th Street and Broadway.
During its heyday through the 1920s, celebrities such as Irving Berlin, Fred Astaire, and Charlie Chaplin were closely associated with the area, nicknamed The Tenderloin because of its desirable location in Manhattan. However, crime and corruption, and their friends gambling and prostitution were sneaking in. Beginning with the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s and through the following decades, Times Square gained its reputation as a dangerous neighborhood. The seediness of the area became a symbol of the dismal state of the city. The tourists who continued to flock to the city’s most famous landmark were greeted by go-go bars, sex shops, adult theaters, and a very unDisneylike atmosphere. (oh, you got trouble right here in New York City)
Revitalization began in thew 1990s and today Times Square is a place you’d take your elderly mother. And lots of people do. Times Square is the world’s most visited tourist attraction, hosting over 39 million visitors (and their elderly mothers) yearly.
It’s squeaky clean now and glitzier than ever. (It’s the only neighborhood with zoning ordinances requiring building owners to display illuminated signs.)
Dream on, Las Vegas; Times Square is king.