Try to picture modern New York City as it was when Henry Hudson stumbled upon the island in 1609 while searching for a Northwest Passage to the Orient for his employer the Dutch East India Company.
The Grote Kill formed three small streams that united near modern day 10th Avenue and 40th street, wound through the low-lying Reed Valley renowned by the natives for fish and waterfowl, before emptying into the Hudson River at a deep bay at present day 42nd Street.
When the American Revolution began, the area was owned by John Morin Scott, a New York militia general serving under George Washington.
John Scott’s manor house was located at what is currently 43rd Street, surrounded by the countryside he used for farming and breeding horses.
Then the area was purchased by John Jacob Astor in the 1830’s.
Astor became the wealthiest person in the United States by selling off lots to hotels and other commercial concerns as New York City expanded uptown.
By 1872,the area had become a center for carriage-making and became known as Longacre, named after a similar carriage-making district in London.
Industrialization then pushed theaters and prostitution uptown into the area.
The first theater on Longacre Square, the Olympia, was built by cigar manufacturer Oscar Hammerstein in 1895 at modern day 1514-16 Broadway at 44th Street.
As the once sparsely settled stretch of Broadway became ablaze with crowds and nightlife, the area was nicknamed “Thieves Lair” for its rollicking reputation.
In 1896, at the age of 38, Adolph Ochs was advised by New York Times reporter Henry Alloway that the paper could be bought at a greatly reduced price due to its financial losses and wide range of competitors in New York City.
After borrowing money, he formed The New York Times Company, placed the paper on a strong financial foundation, and became majority stockholder of The New York Times.
Ironically, the paper’s readership increased as Adolph Ochs focused more on objective journalism, at a time when other newspapers were openly and highly partisan. This objective approach to journalism increased sales from an average of 9,000 newspapers a day to over 500,000 daily.
Then in 1903, Adolph Ochs decided to build a new headquarters for his paper.
The New York Times Tower
Adolph Ochs purchased an island lot at 1475 Broadway and hired Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz to design his new new building.
The New York Times Tower would become a 25 story, 395 foot tall skyscraper located at 42nd Street and Broadway.
To help promote the new headquarters, the Times held a New Year’s Eve event on December 31, 1903, welcoming the year of 1904 with a fireworks display set off from the roof of the building at midnight.
The event was a success, attracting 200,000 spectators.
Adolph Ochs then persuaded New York City Mayor George B. McClellan, Jr. To construct a subway station there and rename the area “Times Square.”
On April 8, 1904, by proclamation of Mayor McClellan, Longacre Square officially became Times Square.
Three weeks later, the first electrified Times Square advertisement appeared on the side of a bank at the corner of 46th Street and Broadway.
Construction continued throughout 1904, and on New Year’s Eve Adolph Ochs once more had pyrotechnics illuminate his new building with another fireworks show.
Then in January of 1905, The New York Times officially moved into their new headquarters building.
For New Year’s Eve 1908, Adolph Ochs replaced his fireworks display with what he thought would be a more spectacular event – the lowering of a lit ball down the buildings flagpole at midnight.
The New York Times outgrew their headquarters some ten years later and moved out, but Adolph Ochs New Year’s Eve celebration continues to this day as every American has seen the famous “ball drop” still held on top of the same building now known as One Times Square.
One Times Square remained a major focal point of Times Square with additions such as the electronic news ticker in 1928 and the annual New Years Eve Ball Drop.
Today, most of the building’s interior remains vacant aside from a Walgreens pharmacy at street level.
However, due to its large amount of revenue from advertising, One Times Square is considered one of the most valuable advertising locations in the world.
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