“Even before the New York entertainment center moved up from Herald Square, the northwest corner of Broadway and 42nd Street featured a giant billboard advertising theatrical attractions,” states the caption for this photo from the fascinating 1976 book New York Then and Now.
I love the street cleaner pushing his barrel over Belgian block streets crisscrossed with streetcar tracks.
Later that year, the nine-story Hotel Pabst went up on the site, and nearby buildings torn down in 1902 to make way for the IRT subway. Theaters were moving in; check out the minstrel show signs at the far left in the 1903 photo above.
The corner kept changing fast. By 1905 The New York Times (at left) building replaced the hotel, and the plot of land, Longacre Square, was renamed Times Square.
The Times didn’t stay long. They moved to another building on West 43rd in 1913. The Times Tower and Square become New York icons of advertising and entertainment—the wholesome and the sleezy variety.
Fast-forward to 2011. Nothing from 1898 remains; the corner is a sea of neon, featuring monuments to commerce—like the big Chase bank.