Long before the city of New York was chartered in 1897, intersection of Broadway and 42nd Street had been a melting pot of history and cultures. Evolving from a bustling center of shops and commerce to the crossroads of the world, people from all over the world have come to Midtown Manhattan intersection known as Times Square to see and be seen. The history of Times Square is grounded in a strange combination of vice and virtue.
Considered at one time to be the Tenderloin District, many New Yorkers moved to Midtown and Times Square. The term tenderloin is said to reflect the desirability of the area. From the rows of quaint brownstone row houses to the bright lights of Broadway, Times Square has seen it all.
Once called Longacre Square, Times Square has had its share of celebrity visitors, dating back to the 18th Century. During the American Revolutionary War, General George Washington was rumored to have stayed in Longacre.
The nickname, crossroads of the world, refers to the building of the first roadway to cross the United States from coast to coast. Called the Lincoln Highway, the roadway wound its way across America from San Francisco to New York City and terminated at the intersection of Broadway and 42nd Street. The roadway itself was nothing short of a modern wonder for the day, spanning over 3000 miles through 13 states.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, millions of immigrants arrived in the port of New York, mostly from Europe. Though many immigrants chose to stay in New York, others opted to move farther west. The Lincoln Highway, the bright lights of the city and Times Square in particular all combined to create an atmosphere of excitement that has drawn millions of to this great city.
In 1904, the name of Longacre was dropped in favor of a new name. That year, the venerable New York Times newspaper moved its headquarters to what is now called simply One Times Square. The skyscraper was brand new and members of the community saw the move as an opportunity to create a new identity. The name Times Square became official and local residents gathered on New Years Eve for grand celebration that continues to this day.
Every New Years Eve, millions of people from all over the world gather in Times Square to usher in the New Year. The famous ball drop, from the old New York Times headquarters at One Times Square, is watched on television by millions more around the world.
During the 1950s and 1960, Times Square had become home to adult entertainment shops, bars and street hustlers. The area known as the Great White Way, home to American theater, would suffer as a result of the influx of scamsters, even though the trend had begun as early as the late 1800s. It would the efforts of city administrators and community activists to cleanup the area, work that would take over a decade to complete.