Post written by Timothy Wroten, N-YHS Communications
The Historical Society is holding a prize contest through January 31, 2011 for contemporary photographs of Times Square to help us document the ever-changing neighborhood. Everyone from the serious to the amateur photographer is invited to contribute; the first-prize winner receives $500 and all contestants get the chance to have their photos become part of the Historical Society’s permanent collection. Please visit http://contest.nyhistory.org/ for more information.
For inspiration, here is a 1904 photograph of the eponymous Times Tower under construction, which was taken by amatuer photographer Robert L. Bracklow.
The area now known as Times Square was once called Long Acre Square, site of William H. Vanderbilt’s American Horse Exchange and an important commercial center. Between 1830 and 1860, the Astor family built a neighborhood there that remained exclusive until the 1890s when “silk hat” brothels began to alter its character.
The Italianate style Times Tower on 44rd Street was constructed in 1903-1904 for Adolph S. Ochs, the visionary publisher of The New York Times. Anticipating the continued growth of the city northward, Ochs had his tower face north, rather than the city downtown. On April 9, 1904, Mayor George McClellan renamed the area where Broadway crosses Seventh Avenue “Times Square.” Ochs and the Times held the first New Year’s Eve celebration here on December 31, 1904, with a party on the building’s roof, complete with fireworks which hundreds of thousands of spectators watched from the streets below.
This photograph from the New-York Historical Society’s Robert L. Bracklow Photograph Collection depicts the Times Tower mid-construction, already gleaming among the area’s pre-existing low-lying buildings. Bracklow photographed New York City and surrounding areas around the turn of the century, focusing on architectural views, as well as areas that were being torn down and rebuilt to transform the city environment.