Times Square Reborn

Coming at you: Manhattan’s town square is spruced up for the 21st century

It's the heart of the Great White Way, the Crossroads of the World, the place where people love to gather when the new year comes in, or when a war ends, or when any other great event occurs that inspires people to want to rub shoulders with the rest of humanity. It's Times Square. It's the place to be.

Located where Broadway cuts across the intersection of Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street (known to locals as the "Deuce"), Times Square has had its share of ups and downs through the decades. Back in 1895, when Oscar Hammerstein I opened the first theater in what was then Longacre Square, the area was the hub of the city's down-and-dirty stable and carriage district. Later, after the New York Times built the Times Tower—a Florentine campanile that anchors the south end of the square—the name was changed to Times Square; by then, the theater district was thriving. But as the city's fortunes ebbed and flowed, so did the flavor of Times Square, and by the l980s many of the grand old theaters had been replaced by porn houses, peep shows and other questionable forms of entertainment.

Within the past five years, however, Times Square has come back with a vengeance, as writer Doug Stewart reports. Old theaters like the New Amsterdam—once home to the Ziegfeld Follies—have been restored and are up and running. Grand and glitzy signs dominate the large X-shaped clearing surrounded by the tight grid of the city's streets. And soon, a jazzy 57-story skyscraper designed by Miami-based Arquitectonica will be the area's newest landmark. To find out how all these changes came about, and what's cooking in the square now, Doug Stewart talked to all hands and even took in a few of the stage plays, in order to understand, as he writes, why "Times Square has once again become the place to see and be seen in New York."

These photos and others like them will be featured in the forthcoming book, Signs & Wonders: The Spectacular Marketing of America by Tama Starr, CEO of Artkraft Strauss, and Edward Hayman, veteran journalist (Doubleday, April 1998).

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