Old New York In Photos #97 – Long Acre Square 1908 & How Times Square Got Its Name

Long Acre Square 1908 aka Times Square And The Man Who Named It

Times Square Long Acre Square 1908 photo Library of Congress

Fashionable ladies, trolleys, horse drawn vehicles and turn-of-the-century buildings abound in this picture of Long Acre Square otherwise known as Times Square.

This photograph looking south down Broadway from 45th Street is identified by the Library of Congress as Long Acre Square circa 1911. The date is close, only off by three years. At the end of the story we have a cropped high resolution version of the same scene and every detail is crystal clear.

Taking a closer look at the left side of the photograph we can see an ad for Richard Carle (1871-1941) in the musical comedy Mary’s Lamb in front of The New York Theatre. The show played from May 25 – September 5, 1908. Richard Carle not only starred, produced and staged Mary’s Lamb but wrote the book, music and lyrics!  The amazing Carle would later appear in motion pictures acting in 45 films including Ninotchka, The Great McGinty and The Devil and Miss Jones

Next to the Mary’s Lamb advertising sign, is an advertisement for The Ziegfeld Follies, obviously of 1908, at the Jardin de Paris which ran from June 15 until September 4, 1908.

The Jardin De Paris, was part of the Olympia Theatre entertainment complex located at 1514-16 Broadway at 44th Street (opened November 25, 1895, demolished 1935).  The Jardin de Paris was located on the roof of The New York Theatre.

Roof garden’s were popular around New York City at the turn of the century. There was no air conditioning in theaters so roof gardens gave audiences a chance to enjoy a show during the hot summer months out in the open air. The roof garden of The New York Theatre underwent many name changes depending on who was the manager of the theater. It was showman Florenz Ziegfeld who in 1907 renamed the space Jardin de Paris when he gave the evening’s entertainment a French atmosphere.

There is a small poster only visible in the high resolution photo, advertising Hattie Williams at The Criterion Theatre, also part of the Olympia complex. The Williams musical, Fluffy Ruffles, ran from September 7 – October 17, 1908.

Therefore this photo was taken in the summer of 1908.

On the corner of Broadway and 43rd Street we can see the signage and two buildings of the world famous Rector’s restaurant. Adjacent to Rector’s is the Hotel Cadillac. Behind the Hotel Cadillac, the tallest building visible is the Knickerbocker Hotel on 42nd Street. Much further in the distance almost looking like it is blocking Broadway’s continuation is Macy’s.

At the extreme right of the photo we can see a sliver of the New York Times Tower Building which gave Times Square the name it’s known by today.

Long Acre Square?

Previous to being called Times Square this area was known as Long Acre or Longacre Square. In London, Long Acre was the name of the area where the horse and carriage businesses were located. In the 1870s New York’s carriage trade had settled in the 42nd – 47th street area and  New Yorkers began calling the area Long Acre Square after the London counterpart. The first mention of Long Acre Square found in print is an 1883 New York Sun advertisement for Barrett House a hotel, at 42nd Street and Broadway.

Besides the obvious: the New York Times moving to the area and building their headquarters there, how did Long Acre Square become Times Square? 

A suggestion by a reader.

Here is the letter written March 17, 1904 and published one week later by the New York Times:

Times Triangle, Times Square: New Names for Long Acre Square Suggested by a Reader of This Newspaper

To the Editor of The New York Times:

When the new building of The New York Times shall be completed and become a thing of art and beauty in that section of the city in which it is to stand, why would it not be fitting that the space about the edifice be called “Times Triangle” or “Times Square,” though perhaps it may not be a square? It is, it seems, more euphonious than “Long Acre Square,” and very soon would become as well known as “Printing House Square” or “Herald Square.” No doubt the Board of Aldermen would take up such a suggestion at the proper time and act upon it favorably. Can it not be entertained?

-J.W.C. Corbusier

Who was J.W.C. Corbusier?

John William Cresswell Corbusier (born Cresswell Corbusier Oct. 31,1878- June 8, 1928)  was an Ohio based architect and talented draftsman who designed over 30 churches and chapels. He grew up in Rochester, NY, and received his education there at Mechanics Institute (now the Rochester Institute of Technology) and trained in Paris at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts. He went to work in Buffalo and then on to New York City working in the office of famed architect Cass Gilbert (Woolworth Building, U.S. Custom House, Minnesota State Capitol, among others).

The New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects offered medals to the author of a distinguished executed work of architecture represented in its 1904 exhibition. Corbusier won the gold medal in competitive drawing for a recreation pier he designed.

Corbusier married Katherine Lyman in 1905 and moved to Cleveland.  He associated with Ralph Adams Cram in erecting the Church of the Covenant, and with Henry Vaughn on the Flora Stone Mather Chapel of Adelbert College. He later went into partnerships with George S. Page and then with William E. Foster.

In 1911 he and his wife moved to Hudson, OH where they raised four children. He designed  and built at least 30 churches during his career. Corbusier died of a heart attack while dancing at the Hudson Club at the age of forty-nine.

August Belmont, The Subway Chief “Suggests” A Name Change

Immediately following Corbusier’s letter, August Belmont, President of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company wrote a letter to the Board of Alderman, echoing Corbusier, that the name Long Acre Square be changed to Times Square and that the new subway to be opened in October, have its stop at 42nd Street named Times Station.

Of course the competing New York Tribune objected to the proposed name change saying in an editorial: “The old name is a good one intrinsically and because it is fixed in familiar usage. The new name proposed is awkward because the letter “s” is doubled in the middle of it, it cannot be correctly pronounced without an effort and even then it is not pleasing to the ear.”

The American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society’s president, author and historian Albert Ulmann, also lamented the name change saying that the unilateral action was taken without any public discussion or approval. “The question may well be asked,” the Society noted after the naming of Herald Square and Times Square, “where will this thing end if these cases be followed as precedents? … And how can you withstand a similar request from the big drygoods houses and other business concerns?”

The Board of Rapid Transit Commissioners took Belmont’s suggestion to the Board of Alderman and on April 5, 1904. The Board unanimously approved the proposal. Belmont’s friend Times publisher Adolph Och was thrilled that area would bear the Times name.

Mayor George McClellan signed the ordinance, April 13, 1904 decreeing that “the open space between Forty-second Street and Forty-seventh Street between the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Broadway shall hereafter be known and designated as Times Square.”

Decree or no decree, some old-timer’s refused to use the name Times Square, and continued referring to the area as Long Acre. Even in print the Long Acre name lived on with journalists nostalgically calling the area Long Acre Square. On a side note as we pointed out previously, the phone numbers assigned for the area were given the LO prefix for Long Acre.

Below is a high resolution photograph of the same scene from the Library of Congress collection of the Detroit Publishing Co.. This photo edits out the Times Tower Building but the clarity and details are stunning.

High resolution Times Square Long Acre Square 1908

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One thought on “Old New York In Photos #97 – Long Acre Square 1908 & How Times Square Got Its Name

  1. KEVIN

    The hi-res photos you post are fascinating. And I think someone today should produce one-night-only staged readings of the plays that always show up, just to see why people bought tickets to things like “Fluffy Ruffles”, a musical based on a comic strip. I thought that kind of thing was unique to today’s Broadway shows.

    Reply

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