A Times Square can be found in many cities in the US and other parts of the world. Honking, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and the ‘Big Custard Apple’ Mumbai, all have important districts called Times Square. However when the name Times Square is mentioned the first place that comes to mind is the unique shopping, entertainment and tourism centre in New York City.
FACT 1: Times Square stretches between Broadway and 7th Avenue and West 42nd and West 47th Streets in New York. It is a landmark tourist destination. An automated counting system counts the daily footfall. On an average 360,000 people walk the streets of Times Square daily.
FACT 2: Times Square was originally a horse and buggy intersection and was named Long Acre Square after a horse and buggy station in London. In 1904 the New York Times built a 25 storey skyscraper on the corner of West 42nd and Broadway. The building was a Gothic fortress, designed to give architectural beauty to a skyscraper. Standing 430 feet tall, the building was a mammoth structure in its time.
FACT 3: There was a subway station at the basement of the building. For the sake of convenience, the station was named Times Square Station, a name that stands today. The name of Long Acre Square was then changed to Times Square ‘without effort or suggestion from the Times’. The Times moved from their original Manhattan premises to the new offices in January 1905. The Times soon outgrew the building and moved in 1929. The building was sold in 1961.
FACT 4: Shopping is a big draw for both adults and children. The district has always been a flourishing retail centre. In the past, this sector attracted rich patrons, making Times Square the shopping destination of the rich. This led to the mushrooming of fine dining and exclusive entertainment centres in the Square. Shoppers today visit the Hershey’s Chocolate Store, Toys R Us, M7M’s World, The MTV Store and many other iconic stores.
FACT 5: The presence of so many rich patrons naturally led to the establishment of theatre houses in the area. Broadway has been the home of the greatest musicals ever including ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’
FACT 6: The term Broadway, when referring to where a production made its debut or attained fame, refers to the theatres in the area. A Broadway production refers to the 40 professional theatres seating 500 or more persons. They are concentrated in the Theatre District and Lincoln Centre.
FACT 7: Broadway is also referred to as the Great White Way. It got this name from the large and numerous neon signs that blaze over the area, advertising the various shows. Broadway hits were used by Hollywood to create the first musical films. Thus Broadway rode to international fame, on the wings of Hollywood.
FACT 8: In 1907, the Times started lowering a huge glass ball down its flagpole, to mark the end of the old year and the start of the New Year. This tradition has grown into a sophisticated high tech ritual; attend by many New Yorkers and tourists. It is also televised and millions of Americans are virtual participants, every New Year’s Eve.
FACT 9: During the 1960’s and 1970’s the square lost its glamour and became a centre for sleazy adult entertainment. Crime rates started to rise. In the 1990’s Mayor Rudy Giuliani encouraged large tourist friendly stores, theatres and restaurants to set up in Times Square. The Disney Company also invested heavily to restore the Square to its position as ‘Crossroads of the World’.
FACT 10: A huge coffee cup, created in neon lights, with real steam coming out of it and a neon man, smoking a cigarette and blowing steam generated smoke rings, these are two of times Squares most famous electric signs.