When Longacre Square became Times Square

I’m not sure what year this postcard dates to, but the image offers a few clues. For starters, that’s the then-new New York Times building in the center of the image. The opening of the Times headquarters in 1904 triggered the name change from Longacre Square to Times Square.

On the right there’s another notable building, with porthole windows across a mansard roof. This was the Hotel Astor, constructed in 1905 and at the time one of the most luxurious hotels in the city. What you can’t see is its fabulous roof garden—a dreamy place to go in a city largely without air conditioning.

Times Square in 1905 isn’t quite the crossroads of the world just yet. But with a major newspaper anchoring the square, plus a plethora of hotels, and theaters already occupying this junction, it’s well on its way.

[Postcard: MCNY; X2011.34.878]

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21 Responses to “When Longacre Square became Times Square”

  1. countrypaul Says:

    With traffic re-streamed and “calmed” (what a joke that term is), it’s not literally the crossroads of the world anymore, but oh, what it was when it was what it was! Great postcard – thank you!

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Without the car traffic, Times Square has become an open-air free for all, and I’m not a fan. I prefer the Times Square of the 1990s, with Howard Johnson’s and Colony Records.

      • Tom B Says:

        Colony Records used to be Jack Dempsey’s Restaurant. I heard the Brill Building has been transformed. JJ Hunsecker had an apartment there in the movie ‘Sweet Smell of Success.’

  2. jms Says:

    The large building on the left, below the postcard caption, is the Hotel Rector (later Claridge) at 1500 Broadway — which tells us the image is from no earlier than 1910–1911. The flagpole running through “York”, however, I believe belongs to the Fitzgerald Building at 43rd & Broadway, later the site of Toffenti Restaurant (1940). https://stuffnobodycaresabout.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/pc-Broadway-N-From-42nd.jpg

  3. burkemblog Says:

    Me, too–I loved the 80s and 90s Times Square. We were stationed at West Point twice, 83-86 and 95-2001–I was on the faculty and my wife was an Army dentist–we spent every weekend in the city–most people stationed there were afraid to go, alas.

    One of my colleagues had commanded the Army recruiting station in Times Square–only one open around the clock–he told a story of enlisting a couple who had a live sex show on the Square one night, and then celebrated their enlistment with them by attending (but not, I think, participating in) their 2am show.

  4. chungwong Says:

    Gaiety Theatre (1909) is up on the right. But Hotel Claridge which opened as Hotel Rector, built 1910-11, is not up. The yellow building before the New York sign is Rector’s (1899-1909) lobster palace. So this is c1909.

  5. jms Says:

    chungwong: The Hotel Rector (Claridge) looks very much up to me, as mentioned in my comment above. Here are a coupe other views of it:
    https://infamousnewyork.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/57.jpg?w=500&h=778

    Right there below the postcard caption, no?

    I can even spot Bunjan on the right and Simpsons on the left … though I have no idea what/when they were. And then there’s the 1906 Astor Theatre at 1537 Broadway.

  6. Alan E Salz Says:

    And the Knickerbocker Hotel still stands!

  7. Marco Romano Says:

    Someone once said this about Times Square: “Low life is better than no life at all.”

  8. Bob Says:

    The “Jardin de Danse” rooftop sign at the left of the image advertises the popular open-air nightspot that opened in 1913, so the image likely dates not earlier than 1913.

  9. Bob Says:

    Aside from a missing billboard on the building on the west side of Times Square (likely an editorial choice so as not to obstruct the hotel behind), the postcard matches the photograph titled: “Times Square, New York City, September 5, 1914. Photographed for the Success Postal Card Company.”

    See http://dcmny.org/islandora/object/photosnycbeyond%3A30424

    • Bob Says:

      According to “The Statue of Liberty,” by Barry Moreno, Clement Souhami (later Swan) was one of the founders of the Success Postal Card Company. He was born in Smyrna, Turkey in 1888 and emigrated to the United States in 1906.

      • Bob Says:

        Here is an eBay listing for a blank version of this postcard #1068

        The reverse printing reads, “Times Square – A view north of 43rd Street, where Broadway crosses 7th Avenue. Great center of activity. The most important hotels and theaters in the city are within a radius of a few hundred yards.”

        https://www.ebay.com/itm/382864901684

      • ephemeralnewyork Says:

        Thanks Bob for the links and context—I love the original photo, with the ads so clear and buildings so crisp.

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