Times Square is the major commercial intersection and neighborhood in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. It is located at the junction of Broadway (now converted into a pedestrian plaza) and Seventh Avenue, and stretches from West 42nd to West 47th Streets.
Brightly adorned with billboards and advertisements, Times Square is sometimes referred to as “The Crossroads of the World”, “The Center of the Universe”, and the heart of “The Great White Way”. In addition to being one of the world’s busiest pedestrian intersections, it is also the hub of the Broadway Theater District and a major center of the world’s entertainment industry. Times Square is one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions, drawing over 39 million visitors annually. Approximately 330,000 people pass through Times Square daily, many of whom are either tourists or people working in the area.
Formerly Longacre Square, Times Square was renamed in April 1904 after The New York Times moved its headquarters to the newly erected Times Building (now called One Times Square). That building is the site of the annual ball drop on New Year’s Eve, which began on December 31, 1907, and continues today, attracting over a million visitors to Times Square every New Year’s Eve.
The northern triangle of Times Square is Duffy Square, which was dedicated in 1937 to Chaplain Francis P. Duffy of New York City’s “Fighting 69th” Infantry Regiment. A memorial to Duffy is located there, along with a statue of George M. Cohan and the TKTS discount theatre tickets booth. The stepped red roof of the TKTS booth also provides seating for various events. The statue of Duffy and Duffy Square were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001
Times Square is the intersection of spectators and performers, tourists and locals; all the diversity of the city, the country, and the world interacting. Times Square accommodates many activities both planned and spontaneous, and connects streetscapes, underground passages, and penthouses. Finally there are the layers of history that lie under the streets and behind the facades of theaters, diners and stores. The density and the congestion are part of what is authentic to a place where art, life and commerce quite literally collide.
Much of what constitutes modern American culture has been invented and reinvented, tested, and displayed in the few blocks that make up the Times Square district. This is where Americans devise new ways to entertain themselves. By 1928, some 264 shows were produced in 76 theaters in Times Square. These theaters showcased not old-world opera, but the new popular culture born of America’s immigrant stew – vaudeville and musicals, jazz and the movies. Today it remains the busiest theater district in the world, and is also home to MTV, ABC, B.B. Kings, Hard Rock Cafe, Best Buy Theater, and Madame Tussaud’s.
The most popular spectacles of Times Square have always been free – the dazzling electrical signs that gave Broadway its reputation as “The Great White Way.” Over the course of the past hundred years, Times Square has become an outdoor laboratory for new ways to communicate and advertise.
Times Square is also where American news was made. It was here that writers like Walter Winchell and Damon Runyon perfected their punchy reporting style, the gossip column, and the use of slang, that redefined what news was – how it was to be written and reported, and what counted. Now ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Reuters, Viacom, Condé Naste, and of course the New York Times are all here.
Prostitution and sex theaters defined the area for much of the post-World War II era. In a larger sense, Times Square was a place where boundaries could be pushed, and broken, and desire expressed. It is no accident that, in Times Square, women could challenge the rules of dating, and gays and lesbians could find a greater level of freedom than they found elsewhere in the city.
Times Square blossomed in the first third of the twentieth century, only to slide into notorious decay in the face of the post-1945 world of television, suburbs, and racial strife. Times Square has returned in the past two decades. The crowds that first made the place have also returned, contributing to the unique mix of creativity and commerce, energy and edge that makes Times Square both an international icon and a universe in miniature, reflecting the obsessions, desires and priorities of a changing world.