Advertisements & Scenes of Times Square In Vintage Color Photographs 1954
It’s been almost 60 years since these photographs were taken by an anonymous amateur photographer who was interested in the signage, ads and the streets surrounding a vibrant, now vanished Times Square.
The city began sterilizing all the flavor from the crossroads of the world in the late 1980’s. It was a few years later that most New Yorker’s began noticing the mall-ification of Times Square. True, Times Square had denigrated into a rather sleazy place from the mid-1960’s until the “revitalization” took place. But what has it become?
For anyone who lived through Times Square’s final heyday in the 1950’s, today the place must seem extremely distasteful with its countless tourist barkers, ill-planned pedestrian plazas and glass monolith buildings sheathed in gaudy LED light ads. It’s overcrowded with people moving slowly, chain stores, costumed kitsch characters and modern day hucksters hawking their products to tourists for a “real New York experience.” Give me the days of three card monte games and prostitutes over eight people wandering around in Mickey Mouse costumes any day.
As Nik Cohn said in 1997, ‘Times Square has always changed every 20 years. But this time it’s changed to a corporate, generic American city that doesn’t particularly express the uniqueness of New York.”
But let’s go back in time to 1954 when it was a better time for Times Square. Legitimate theatre was still great, movies offered up Cinemascope entertainment and real Broadway characters (not criminals and freaks) roamed the streets.
Enjoy these Kodachrome views of what you would have seen looking around Times Square on a sunny, warm July day in 1954.
Minimal commentary has been added for identification purposes. Click any photo to enlarge.
Times Square looking south from 46th Street. Shown are: Times Tower Building, Bishop’s Crook Light, Hotel Astor with The Astor Roof Garden, Victoria Theater showing About Mrs. Leslie starring Shirley Booth and Robert Ryan, on the extreme left a portion of the statue for the giant block long Bond Clothes advertisement.
Looking west from Broadway and Seventh Avenue along 45th Street. Shown are: the Astor Theater with a large billboard for Indiscretion of an American Wife starring Jennifer Jones and Montgomery Clift, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musicals Me and Juliet and The King and I, and the 26 story Hotel Piccadilly at 227 West 45th Street.
Looking northwest at corner of 46th Street and Broadway. Shown are: an old municipal bus, the long vanished Horn and Hardart Automat, Childs Restaurant (which later became Howard Johnson’s), the Orpheum Dance Palace above Childs, The Globe Theater showing a documentary The Royal Tour with Queen Elizabeth, a billboard advertising The Wall Street Journal .
Looking west at the southwest corner of Broadway and 47th street. Shown are: part of the Horn and Hardart Automat, Playland, The Holiday Theater extolling that it is air conditioned and showing Port of Wickedness with Edward G. Robinson and Brian Donlevy, Florsheim Shoes and a large billboard advertising Life Magazine and Rheingold “The Dry Beer” and Hunter Whiskey.
Looking west across Broadway at the southwest corner of 46th Street. Shown are: a full view of the large billboard atop The Victoria Theater for About Mrs. Leslie, a Dutch Masters Cigar store, Benedict’s Drinks, and a book and music store.
From Broadway looking southwest at 46th Street. Shown are: The Dutch Masters Cigar Store featuring Harvester on the other side of the sign, The Gaiety Delicatessen, billboard for New York’s Finest Playhouses; The Martin Beck Theatre with The Teahouse of the August Moon, The Fulton Theatre with The Seven Year Itch, The 46th Street Theatre with Ondine and The Coronet Theatre with The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker.
Looking northeast towards 47th Street and Seventh Avenue. Shown are: the huge billboard adjacent to the Mayfair Theater showing Johnny Guitar with Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden and Mercedes McCambridge, and a billboard for Flagstaff Fine Foods.
Just outside of Times Square looking south and west on Broadway at 51st Street. Shown are: the second location of the world famous restaurant “Lindy’s” owned and operated by Leo “Lindy” Lindermann, The Capitol Theater showing The Caine Mutiny with Humphrey Bogart, Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson and Fred MacMurray, and the rear of the large Budweiser sign.
Looking north and west up Broadway from Duffy Square and 46th Street. Shown are: the Pepsi Cola neon sign, Admiral Television and Appliances sign, Father Duffy statue, bishops crook lamppost, Warner Theater, Johnny Walker Scotch billboard, Cinzano Vermouth billboard and the front of the Budweiser sign atop the building.