Times Square And The New York Times Tower Building 1908
Times Square is burgeoning with activity in 1908 and there is so much to see in this picture.
This photograph of Times Square was part of The Detroit Publishing Company collection, now housed at The Library of Congress. The company made picture postcards from these original photographs at the turn of the century.
The area formerly known as Longacre Square became Times Square after the New York Times opened their iconic flagship office building in 1905 at what would become known as “the crossroads of the world,” the southern end of Times Square, the triangular intersection of 42nd and 43rd streets where Broadway and Seventh Avenue diverge.
The Times Tower Building design is reminiscent of the Fuller Building, which became popularly known as the “Flatiron Building” soon after it opened in 1902 between 22nd and 23rd Streets where Broadway and Fifth Avenue intersect. The two buildings don’t look alike at all. But because they were each built on irregular plots of land, the triangular buildings both resemble flatirons.
The original Times Tower Building was a Gothic structure of beautiful light limestone and featured intricate terra-cotta and granite on the facade. More about the building later in the article.
Unfortunately there was no date attached to the picture except 1908. To figure out approximately when this photo was from, I had to search for a few clues in the advertisements around the area.
The first clue is the ad in the right hand side of the photo for a play, Paid In Full, directed by Colin Kemper playing at The Astor Theatre (built 1906, closed 1925) which was located at 1537 Broadway at 45th Street. The show ran there from February 25, 1908 until August 1908.
The left side of the photo has a flag on top of a building advertising The Follies of 1908. The Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. extravaganza ran from June 15 until September 6, 1908 at The Jardin De Paris, an entertainment complex which was located at 1514-16 Broadway at 44th Street (built 1895, demolished 1935). The Jardin De Paris can be seen partially in the lower left corner near a sign advertising a “matinee today” at the New York Theatre and its name is spelled out in lights on the wall above the street matinee sign. The Follies moved to the New York Theatre on September 7 and remained there until September 26, 1908.
The final clue is an advertising sign on the wall of the complex where only a few letters can be made out. Upon close scrutiny the sign reveals the name Hattie Williams. Williams appeared in the title role of Fluffy Ruffles at the Criterion Theatre. Fluffy Ruffles ran from September 7 – October 17, 1908.
The dates of these productions and the advertising indicates the photo was most likely taken sometime in September 1908.
I love this photo not only because of its high detail, but because there is so much going on to hone in on. It captures one precise moment on a sunny morning of the great city and shows the daily lives of New Yorker’s in 1908.
I have cropped and enlarged some sections from this photograph. Double click on any of these to enlarge many of them further.
Seen here is a member of the “White Wing Brigade” a.k.a. a sanitation worker pushing a broom, and to his left is a man rolling his cart of goods. Men in straw hats walk along the sidewalk as a policeman observes the activity.
Another two policemen stand in front of ornate street lights. Behind the umbrella is the glass and cast iron subway kiosk for The Times Square station.
A close-up of one of New York’s finest.
The subway kiosk in barely visible in the left hand corner. Men are working on a manhole cover, an electric trolley has stopped to pick up passengers, prosperous men are leisurely crossing the street with no traffic lights to control traffic flow and a horse drawn carriage ambles down Seventh Avenue.
A close-up of trolley number 176 and its conductor heading up Broadway.
Horse drawn vehicles, a trolley, and automobiles share the roadway with pesestrians. Many commercial buildings line the west side of Broadway including The Broadway Theatre, Hotel Metropole, Rossmore Hotel, Marlborough Hotel and Macy’s Department Store at 34th Street, which dominates the center of the upper portion of the photo.
The building in the center next to the sign for Schloss’ Cafe is Rector’s Restaurant which opened in 1901. For many years it was very popular with New York’s wealthy patrons including “Diamond Jim” Brady. Rector closed his restaurant in 1909 to build a hotel on the location. The new Rector’s Restaurant was then re-opened after the 17 story building had completed construction. Unfortunately Charles Rector went bankrupt on May 29, 1913 and his hotel and restaurant were taken from him. Beyond Rector’s is the original Times Square location of Shanley’s Restaurant which would close on May 7, 1911 and move across the street to 207 West 43rd Street. Shanley’s would close forever in March of 1923, bankrupted by Prohibition. The Criterion sign for Hattie Williams sign is on the left.
No air conditioning, so many buildings had striped awnings, sometimes brightly striped, to keep rooms cool.
Some things have not changed in over 100 years. Billboards and light-up advertisements are on top and on the sides of many buildings.
The advertisement for the “big hit” play, Paid In Full.
With all those horses powering vehicles came a natural byproduct – horse manure. Usually in old promotional view books of New York, this sort of mess would be airbrushed out to alter the final photograph to a decent state. In reality New York streets had tons of horse manure and the city didn’t smell very good.
The architectural details in the Times Tower Building itself are stunning.
Designed by architects Leopold and Cyrus Eidlitz and Andrew C. Mackenzie, the building was completed in 1904, and was the second tallest in New York behind The Park Row Building (1898). The Times Tower opened with fireworks and a large crowd assembling for the festivities on New Year’s Eve 1905.
New Year’s Eve would continue to be celebrated in coming years with the dropping of a ball from a pole positioned on the top of the tower. The annual event is still one of the largest gatherings of people in a public space and is broadcast all over the world.
Besides The Times, other companies leased space in the building or had offices there, denoted from advertisements on the windows. Among them: The Strosridge Litho Company, The McCormack Real Estate Company, The Chicago Daily News, Clarks Tours, Morris Park, and Industrial Savings and Loan Company.
The New York Times stayed in the building only until 1913 moving their main offices a short distance away to 229 West 43rd Street at what would be called The Times Annex Building.
The Times sold the Times Tower building in 1961 to Douglas Leigh who in turn sold it to The Allied Chemical Corporation in 1963. They proceeded to “remodel” and modernize it. In 1963 the company began stripping the building down to its steel skeleton. By February 1964 everything was gone.
Tons of the original stone facade was dumped into the Jersey meadows, a fate which would also befall Penn Station’s grand edifice. Souvenir hunters and sentimental former office workers made away with everything from light fixtures and ornamental wrought-iron railings. After the gutting of the facade and interior, Allied Chemical put up an ugly white marble slab, robbing the building of all of its fine details. A once proud, distinct symbol of New York was transformed into a common looking, drab post-modern building.
In October 1972, Allied Chemical decided to auction off the building. They announced the minimum bid would be $7 million. The price was not met and Allied leased the entire building to Alex M. Parker with an option to buy.
The building was sold by Parker in 1981 for $8.2 million to Swiss investors and they quickly sold it again in 1982 for $12 million to Lawrence Linksman. The building went through more sales and remodeling and is now referred to as One Times Square. It’s used now as a giant garish billboard for companies hawking their products. The building itself is mostly unoccupied.
This colossal advertisement that was once a beautiful building, suits our consumer-centric, glossy, fake society.