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How Times Square Got Started

It is fitting that New York’s most famous neighborhood began with a hunger for real estate development. In the first years of the 20th century, the City’s first subway line was under construction. Its owner, August Belmont, wanted a vibrant neighborhood at the center of the system, at 42nd street and Broadway to aid his venture’s success. So he went to his friend Aldolph Ochs, the owner of the New York Times with a proposition: build a new tower for the writers and printers at 42nd Street and Broadway. The building would have direct access to the station, this way his newsboys could get a jump on the competition, getting their papers to the Upper West Side of Manhattan before anyone else could. Belmont owned shares in the paper so he saw the paper and the subway as natural business allies. Ochs agreed to the idea. Belmont then pressured Mayor George McClellan Jr to change the name to Times Square, since the Time’s rival, The New York Herald and it’s own neighborhood — Herald Square.

When the subway opened on October 27th 1904, it was a massive success. So was the New York Times’ move. It had built the second tallest building in the city, boasting that it could be seen from 12 miles away. To celebrate Ochs had a New Year’s eve party in front of the building, celebrating with fireworks. Three years later the city banned the practice, they feared the new buildings in the neighborhood could catch fire. In response, the Ochs, decided to drop a ball to ring in the year 1908. The dropping of the ball has been done ever since. The original Times Building remains, now covered in billboards and an electronic news ticker. The ball still drops from there every year.

– Mark Gilman, Tour Guide

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