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Why Is It Called Times Square? History Of Times Square

Whether you’re visiting New York soon or you’re a born and bred New Yorker, you might be wondering ‘how did Times Square get its name?’

Interestingly, the iconic ‘Crossroads of the World’ wasn’t always known as Times Square…

This post explains why Times Square is called Times Square, some of its history and when it was built.

Why is Times Square Called Times Square?

Times Square is named after the New York Times who moved their headquarters to Times Square in 1904.

In 1904, Adolph S. Ochs, who was the owner of the New York Times at the time, moved their main office to the brand new Times Tower in modern day Times Square.

Today you’ll still find this building at the heart of Times Square but it is now known as One Times Square.

Ochs bought the plot and built a brand new skyscraper on this slim, non-standard block at 42nd Street that was the site of the former Pabst Hotel.

He chose this area for his new building as the New York subway had just opened meaning New Yorkers could get around the city easier and it was in a central location.

At the time, the new 25-story Times Tower was the second tallest building in New York.

On April 8 1904, the square was officially renamed ‘Times Square’ by the mayor of New York after the New York Times. 

According to Ochs, the New York Times didn’t ask or suggest that the square be renamed after them but it was done out of ‘necessity’.

He said that they needed a name for the new subway station and other names that were suggested were already in use.

At around the same time, the first ever electrified advertisement appeared on the side of a bank and Times Square started to look a bit more like what we are used to today.

The New York Times actually moved offices again in 1913 because they needed more space but the name stuck and we still call it Times Square today.

The One Times Square building is hugely famous for being the venue of the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop which was actually started by Ochs in 1907. 

Over a million people attend this event every year and it’s often watched by over a billion people online.

The building itself has been hugely renovated over the years and all of the original detailing has been removed. 

Advertising billboards were added in the 1990s and today this building is one of the most valuable advertising locations in the whole world.

What Was Times Square Originally Called? 

Times Square was originally called Longacre Square.

It was known as Longacre Square from the 19th century until 1904 when it was renamed Times Square.

When Was Times Square Built? 

Times Square was never officially built, the area just developed over time.

In the 18th century, the area was known as Longacre and was owned by John Morin Scott who was a general in the military. 

He built a manor house which was surrounded by land that he used for farming and breeding horses. The house was located at what is today 43rd Street.

In the early 19th century, much of the land was sold off to hotels as the city started to grow.

By the year 1872, this area was the center of New York’s horse carriage industry and was the site of the American Horse Exchange.

At the time, it was known as Longacre Square.

It was originally named after Long Acre in London which was London’s horse carriage trading hub.

As the city developed, more hotels, theaters, restaurants and cafes began opening in the area and it developed into a commercial, entertainment hub.

Why is Times Square Called ‘Crossroads of the World’?

Times Square is often called ‘the Crossroads of the World’ because people from all over the world visit it every single day.

Times Square receives around 360,000 tourists every single day and over 131 million tourists every year.

People come from all over the world to see it and this is where they all ‘meet’.

Times Square actually also has many other nicknames including ‘the Center of the Universe’ and ‘the Great White Way’.

It is often known as ‘the Great White Way’ due to all of the bright lights from the advertisements.

Is Times Square a Square? 

Interestingly, Times Square isn’t actually a square – it’s a bowtie-shaped junction.

Times Square is located at the junction of Broadway, Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street. The area is 5 blocks long and runs between 42nd and 47th Street.

Although it’s not literally a square, the area does function as a town square which is why it has the name.

It’s actually more of a bowtie shape rather than a square if you include nearby Buffy Square which is a part of the same area.

Take a look at the image below which shows Times Square’s shape:

Map of Times Square.
Map of Times Square.

This shape is quite unusual for Manhattan which generally consists of a standardized grid layout. 

The triangular shape of Times Square is created by the diagonal positioning of Broadway which cuts through the city’s standardized grid shape.

And that’s it!

Thanks for reading this post on some of the history of Times Square including how it got its name and when it was built.

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Megan Jones is a travel expert and founder of Traveller's Elixir, who has been travelling the world full time since 2021. Megan's travel tips been featured in numerous media outlets including Metro, Timeout, Thrillist and more.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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