30 Vintage Photos From The Glory Days Of Times Square

The rise and fall of "the crossroads of the world."

1800s Timessquare
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30 Vintage Photos From The Glory Days Of Times Square
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Whether we call it "the center of the universe," "the crossroads of the world," or "the heart of New York," perhaps no section of the Big Apple is more recognizable or more visited than Times Square.

Yet, as iconic as the stretch of Broadway from West 42nd to West 47th streets is today, the area has both changed radically from its humble beginnings and seen areas of both great prosperity and great depravity.

Times Square first became "Times Square" in 1904, when Adolph Ochs, owner of The New York Times, moved the paper into a newly built skyscraper there. Prior to that, the junction was known as Longacre Square.

The honorary name was a point of pride for Ochs, who boasted to the Syracuse Herald, "I am pleased to say that Times Square was named without any effort or suggestion on the part of The Times.” Indeed, even when The Times moved out of the building just nine years later, the Times Square name stuck.

The building that was once home to the paper is still a focal point of the square today and is known both for the New Year's Eve ball drop and the red steps behind the historic Father Duffy Statue.

The decades that followed the newspaper's departure saw the area's commercial, entertainment, and tourism appeal develop with high-end hotels like the Knickerbocker and Astor moving in. Both tourists and locals flocked to the square to visit trendy restaurants and take in shows at theaters like the Olympia, Hudson, and Empire.

With each new decade, Times Square evolved as did the country at large, falling prey to the hard times of the Depression only to rebound after World War II.

Then, in the decades that followed, Times Square sank into a long decline. While the area had certainly seen its share of lurid and illicit behavior — soldiers on leave during wartime would often hit the area up in search of prostitutes — Times Square's slip into notorious disrepair truly began in the 1960s. And throughout the 1970s and 1980s, it would become known worldwide for its crime and erotic entertainment, before eventually being cleaned up at the tail end of the 20th century.

Times Square might be a vastly different place now than it was 40, 50, or 60 years ago, but this collection of photos from its early days proves that it's always been an area in flux — much like the city it calls home.


Next, check out the grittier side of the story with this look at vintage Times Square pictures from the area's lowest point. Then, see some astounding photos of undeveloped New York before it became the metropolis we know today.

Joel Stice
Joel Stice is a writer who enjoys digging into all things pop culture, history, science, and anything weird.
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