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17 Shiny Facts About Times Square

It’s arguably one of the best-recognized tourist spots in New York City.

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about Times Square, one of the most popular squares in the world!

1. It’s located in Midtown Manhattan in New York

Times Square is an iconic intersection located right in the heart of Midtown Manhattan in New York City. It’s world-famous because of its brightly flashing billboards and advertising.

The area stretches all the way from West 42nd Street to West 47th Street and is bounded by Broadway and 7th Avenue. It’s one of the busiest places on the planet!

facts about times square

2. Times Square is the Center of the Big Apple

That would be a nice nickname, don’t you think?

It’s not though, but Times Square does have some other nicknames as it’s often referred to as “the Crossroads of the World”, “the Center of the Universe”, “the heart of the Great White Way”, and “the heart of the world.”

You know, just to emphasize that it’s a very important place!

3. It used to have a different name

Did you know that before the area was called Times Square, it was actually known as “Longacre Square?”

It has been called this way because the area turned into the center of the horse and carriage industry of New York. The same industry in the city of London was located in Acre Street, so the square in New York was named after that.

Art-Facts Youtube Channel

It officially got this name in the year 1872, before that, it didn’t have a name at all!

Times Square in 1898
Part of Times Square in 1898 / Wiki Commons

4. Why is it called Times Square?

So why is it called Times Square now?

That’s because The New York Times, the most prominent newspaper in the city, moved into a skyscraper located at 42nd Street on Longacre Square in the year 1904.

Part of the deal was to construct a subway station in the area and to rename the square to “Times Square,” a name it was officially given on April 8, 1904.

Just 3 weeks later, the first of the numerous electrified billboards that would follow it was installed as well!

Times Square in 1908
Times Square in 1908 / Wiki Commons

5. The New York Times moved out of One Times Square after just 9 years

Perhaps one of the most remarkable facts about Times Square is that even though it was named as such, the New York Times didn’t stay for too long in the building they occupied since 1904.

Less than a decade later, they already moved to another block just west of the square. In 1963, they ended up selling the building to the Allied Corporation and it was renamed the “Allied Chemical Building.”

We definitely prefer its current name, as right now it’s called “One Times Square.”

One Times Square today
One Times Square today (center).

6. Times Square is not actually a square

If you call it a square, then it should have the shape of a square, right? Well, Times Square isn’t shaped like a square at all and more or less resembles the shape of a bow tie.

This means there are 2 triangles on the north and south ends of the area. In the middle, there’s an intersection of 7nd Avenue and Broadway.

7. Want to enjoy a nice quiet stroll? Not here!

Do you think you can find a time of the day to really enjoy a nice and quiet stroll on Times Square? Well, better think again because this is one of the busiest places on the planet!

It’s estimated that on average, about 360,000 pedestrians cross the square every day. That comes down to about 131 million every year.

On the busiest day, up to 450,000 people can cross the square, which makes it one of the busiest intersections in the world!

fun facts about times square

8. A famous tradition on New Year’s Eve has been held here since 1907

One of the most famous traditions in New York City is the yearly dropping of the ball on New Year’s Eve. The first time this ball was dropped happened December 31, 1907, well over a century ago!

Ever since 2008, which marked the centennial of the tradition, a permanent ball with LED lights was placed on top of the building. Over a million people gather on the square every year to watch this event!

Time square ball /
Times Square Ball / Wiki Commons

9. The northern part was named after a famous American chaplain

The southern part of Times Square doesn’t have a name, but the northern part is referred to as “Duffy Square.”

It was given this name in 1939 to honor the achievements of Father Francis D. Duffy, a Roman Catholic priest and military chaplain who joined the 69th Infantry on the Western Front during World War I.

A statue of the man can be found on the square that bears his name.

Duffy Square and statue
Duffy Square and statue / Beyond My Ken /

10. The land was once owned by the first multi-millionaire in America

One of the most fascinating facts about Times Square is that the entire area was once owned by a single man named John Jacob Astor (1763-1848). He bought it from a man named John Morin Scott, a general of the New York Militia who once served under George Washington himself!

Needless to say that Astor became extremely rich as he sold off parts of the land to hotels and entrepreneurs as the city expanded in the area.

This German-born businessman became America’s first multi-millionaire because of it.

Astor / Wiki Commons

11. Advertising has always been big business on Times Square

Times Square is famously known for its huge and countless billboards. Ever since the first electronic billboard was installed in 1904, this has been an important part of the area.

After World War I, the area exploded, and so did the advertising revenue. In the 1920s, the annual income from advertising had grown to over $85 million USD, an enormous sum at that time.

One of the biggest advertising spaces in the world at that time, which was used to promote a brand of chewing gum, cost $9,000 per month to rent in the 1920s!

Times Square in the 1920s
Times Square in the 1920s / Wiki Commons

12. Times Square was used as the inspiration for a German dystopian movie in the 1920s

Not everybody appreciated the enormous light show that these billboards produced 24/7. One of the most fascinating facts about Times Square is that it became the inspiration for a science-fiction movie made in Germany in the 1920s.

Filmmaker Fritz Lang had visited the place and used it in his movie “Metropolis” (1927), a dark and gloomy movie set in a dystopian future.

This movie is considered one of the pioneering movies in the science-fiction genre, and it doesn’t paint a nice picture of the big cities in the future, caused by a man’s visit to Times Square.

Metropolis advertisement from 1927
Metropolis advertisement from 1927 / Wiki Commons

13. The Great Depression didn’t do Times Square any good

The business world was booming in the 1920s, culminating in the construction of some of the tallest buildings in history, the famous skyscrapers the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building as they were having a duel referred to as the “Race to the Sky.”

Then, the Great Depression hit and things went downhill really fast. Times Square became a dangerous area full of petty crime, prostitution, and pornographic stores.

This lasted for multiple decades and by the 1980s, one of the blocks on Times Squares was even referred to as the “worst block in the world,” accounting for over 2,300 annual crimes on that single block!

times square at night

14. Times Square finally became a decent area in the 1990s

It wasn’t until then Mayor of the city Rudolph Giuliani put in some extra effort to change Times Square that things really improved. All the pornographic stores were closed and new entertainment facilities were attracted in the mid-1990s.

Some of these entertainment venues included museums, such as Madame Tussauds, and Planet Hollywood, a themed bar and restaurant.

times square interesting facts

15. It’s the terminus of an early transcontinental highway

Did you know that Times Square is actually the Terminus of one of the longest roads in the United States?

This road is referred to as the “Lincoln Highway” and was dedicated on October 31, 1912. It ran coast to coast from Lincoln Park in San Francisco to Times Square in New York, a distance of 3,389 miles (5,454 kilometers).

Most of this road has now been incorporated into the U.S. Numbered Highway System which was introduced in 1926.

Lincoln Highway sign times Square
Sign on Times Square / Peetlesnumber1 /

16. The electric signs on Times Square have special names

One of the most peculiar facts about Times Square is that building owners actually forced to put electronic billboards on the walls of their buildings, based on the minimum set in a zoning ordinance of the city.

This is in contrast to the maximum set in all other areas of the city!

These billboards also have special names and are officially called “Spectaculars” and the biggest ones are called “Jumbotrons.”

times square billboards

17. Is Times Square the most iconic place in the world?

Times Square is arguably one of the best-recognized places in the world. It has been featured in countless movies, television, series, music videos, and even video games.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating depictions of the area was in the movie “I Am Legend,” when Will Smith wanders about alone at Times Square, something that is impossible in real life (unless there’s a bomb scare)!

Times Square in I Am Legend
Times Square in I Am Legend / Will Smith Movies