Formerly known as Longacre Square, Times Square was renamed in 1904 after The New York Times moved its headquarters to the newly erected Times Building – now One Times Square – the site of the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop which began on December 31, 1907, and continues today, attracting over a million visitors to Times Square every year.
The general atmosphere of Times Square changed with the onset of the Great Depression in the early 1930s. City residents moved uptown to cheaper neighborhoods, and many popular theaters closed, replaced by saloons, brothels, “burlesque halls, vaudeville stages, and dime houses.” The area acquired a reputation as a dangerous and seedy neighborhood in the following decades.
Nevertheless, Times Square continued to be the site of the annual ball drop on New Year’s Eve. The ball drop was placed on hiatus for New Year’s Eve in 1942 and 1943 due to lighting restrictions during World War II. Instead, a moment of silence was observed at midnight in Times Square, accompanied by the sound of chimes played from sound trucks.
On May 8, 1945, a massive crowd celebrated Victory in Europe Day in Times Square; and on August 15, 1945, the largest crowd in the history of Times Square gathered to celebrate Victory over Japan Day. The victory itself was announced by a headline on the “zipper” news ticker at One Times Square, which read “*** OFFICIAL TRUMAN ANNOUNCES JAPANESE SURRENDER ***”, the six asterisks representing the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Brightly adorned with billboards and advertisements, Times Square is sometimes 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”.