Coming Soon to Times Square
A visual timeline of Steve Ellis' 13 x 11 foot painting, unveiled at 4 Times Square in January 2014.
In the 1800's the intersection of Broadway and 7th Avenue was named Long Acre Square after a carriage district in London. By night, the pickpockets who frequented the area's brothels nicknamed it Thieve's Lair. In 1895 Oscar Hammerstein launches his Olympia Theatre on Broadway above 42nd St. Featured acts include "Living Pictures" in which nude models pose as works of art.
Construction begins on Alfred Ochs' "New York Times" building. Mayor George McClellan names the crossroads Times Square. Led by Oscar J. Gude, advertisers start to erect electric sign spectaculars along Broadway in 1906. The subway station at 42nd and Broadway is the city's busiest stop.
1907 - 1931 Ziegfeld Follies was a high class Vaudeville variety show with top entertainers including W.C. Fields, Eddie Cantor, Josephine Baker, Fanny Brice and Will Rogers. Conceived by Florenz Ziegfeld, his lavish reviews were known for the many beautiful chorus girls. Hundreds of girls would audition each season, hoping to wear the elaborate costumes by designer Erte.
The New Year's Eve ball drop is introduced at The Times Tower. In 1913 Alfred Ochs moves the newspaper operation to 43rd St but retains ownership of the tower to house its classified advertising department.
Hubert's Dime Museum opened in 1925. It stayed open until 1969 (moving to the basement of Playland). It featured such acts as sword swallower Lady Estelene, Prof. Heckler's Flea Circus, Congo the Jungle Creep, Prince Woo Foo and Princess Wago, and the androgynous, Talk of Tomorrow, Albert - Alberta.
William Black sold nuts to theater-goers, opened a store on Broadway, focused on coffee and sandwiches and then added seventeen more stores to the chain. Jackie Robinson became vice president of the brand after retiring from baseball in 1953.
Billy Minsky brings his burlesque nightlife from the Lower East Side to Broadway in 1931. Gypsy Rose Lee was a dancer whose onstage wit, sharp sense of humor and stripping style made her famous. She was frequently arrested in raids at Minsky's Burlesque. She said, "I wasn't naked officer, I was covered by a blue spotlight." Her memoir was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy.
Movie palaces open and theaters are crossing over to the new medium. Neon tubing becomes a new lighting medium that begins to replace the incandescent bulb in advertising. Street trolleys are replaced by motor buses.
1933 / 1980
"Naughty, bawdy, gaudy", 42nd Street was a film in 1933 about a fabulous theater director in Depression era New York. It was later made into a Broadway show in 1980. The production was directed by Gower Champion who died 10 hours before opening night's curtain.
Writer Herbert Huncke hitchhiked to New York City and made Times Square his home. He associated with jazz legends Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, and Dexter Gordon, with whom he was caught breaking into a car. He knew writers William Burroughs, Allen Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac. Huncke's street slang, vast experience with drugs and criminal life inspired these artists to immortalize him in their work.
The Camel cigarettes billboard was designed by Douglas Leigh. He channelled steam from Con Edison's utility pipes into a canvas diaphragm that pumped the steam out of the mouth in the form of smoke rings.
World War Two is over. Germany, Japan, America and all countries involved cease fire. 750,000 service men and women congregate on Broadway. A famous kiss is photographed. The Times building's news zipper is re-illuminated to read out the minute to minute news. It is the city's hub of information, news, scores, time and temperature no longer blacked out for safety.
Advertising has flooded the area, from neon flickering signage to animated sequences so dazzling, it brings tourists in from around the world. Canadian Club, Pepsi, and Bond with its 50,000-gallon waterfall measuring 27 feet tall lit up several blocks on Broadway. The predecessor was Wrigley's animated sign, once known as the Brightest Spot on Broadway.
Playland moved multiple times around Times Square. The arcade introduced pinball and skeeball to the area. It lasted until 1998 and saw its share of video game junkies, hustlers and fake id purchasers.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono give Times Square and the world a Christmas gift with their billboard War Is Over!
42nd Street between 7th and 8th is bustling with prostitutes, drag queens, street hustlers, junkies, homeless and tourists. Marty Hodas sees an opportunity and starts a coin operated adult movie machine empire and is named The King of the Peeps. With over two hundred adult venues, Times Square becomes the nation's first retail porn center.
The Gaiety Theatre opened in Times Square on the second floor above Howard Johnson's family restaurant. The male burlesque club had a cache of visitors like John Waters, Andy Warhol and Madonna. It was owned and run by Denise Rozis and stayed open until 2005 surviving the Giuliani administration's aggressive drive to close adult related venues.
A Chorus Line opened at the Shubert Theatre in 1975 and was an unprecedented box office and critical hit. The musical is set on the bare stage of a Broadway theatre during an audition for seventeen spots on a chorus line. It was made into a film in 1985.
Breakdancing makes its way down from the Bronx and Harlem and is performed on the streets both for crews to battle and for collecting tourist dollars.
Redevelopment proposals are submitted with little result.
Disney comes to Times Square. The New Amsterdam Theater is remodeled and opens with Beauty and the Beast in 1994. The seedy venues of Times Square are replaced with family-friendly businesses and the new redevelopment is known as "Disneyfication."
The New Victory Theater is re-opened for off-Broadway children’s and family entertainment on 42nd St. It originally opened in 1900 and had many names such as Theatre Republic, Belasco Theatre, and Minsky’s Burlesque.
MTV starts its Total Request Live show in the windows of 1515 Broadway at 44th St. It was a popular promotion tool used by new acts (musicians, actors, and other celebrities) to promote their work to the teen demographic. Often the street was filled with adoring fans. TRL's last show was in 2008.
The last sex shop closes on the notorious block between 7th and 8th Avenues on 42nd Street. Peep-O-Rama opened in 1950 and closed in 2002. M&M's World opens in 2006.
In May traffic is rerouted out of Times Square to make way for a pedestrian plaza on Broadway and 7th aves spanning 42nd to 47th streets.
The Lincoln Highway celebrates 100 years as the longest road in the U.S. connecting 42nd St across country to San Francisco. The sign painter in the top right of the canvas is Steve Ellis fulfilling his fantasy of creating a major lobby piece in his favorite city and home.
2014 - Future
NYC Transit adds the X line and the $ train. Times Square keeps everyone guessing what is next to come to the Crossroads of the World.
chashama nurtures artists by transforming unused property into work and presentation space.