The One Times Square is one of the focal points of the free tour and one of the first major attractions that you’ll see along the way. Despite not being in its finest shape today, the One Time Square is one of the most significant buildings in Manhattan. And the future promises to be bright.
History of the One Times Square
The historic skyscraper was erected on the sight of the old Pabst Hotel at the southern end of what was known back then as Longacre Square in Midtown Manhattan.
Adolph Ochs built the One Times Square to serve as headquarters for the New York Times. It was something exceptional back in the day, with its decorative elements, terracotta and stone facade, and connection to the New York subway network.
Adolph Ochs pulled quite an effort to promote his new jewel, including renaming the Longacre Square to Times Square, a name that the place carries to this day and under which it gained world fame, and a stunning firework display on New Year’s Eve, 1904. It has gathered a crowd of over 200.000.
The New Year’s Eve fireworks were a thing until 1907. In 1908 Ochs came up with something more intricate and even – revolutionary. A lit time ball was lowered down from the 363 ft. high roof. The event of lowering the ball is still held to this day. It attracts millions of tourists each year.
The golden age of the One Times Square was over by the time the NY Times moved away to the New York Times Building at 229 West 43rd Street.
Still, the newspaper retained ownership of the tower and even gave it an upgrade – the famous zipper, consisting of 14,800 light bulbs that displayed news titles. The first and most-famous news that the zipper flashed was Herbert Hoover’s victory and Japan’s surrender.
The Times sold the building to Douglas Leigh in 1961. It was sold several times in the following decades, including to the Lehman Brothers in 1995, who decided that hosting tenants is way too expensive and marketed it as a spot for billboards and advertising.
Few news outlets kept the zipper operational, while Sony operated a Jumbotron between 1990 and 1996, but canceled it afterward as a part of cost-cutting.
Jamestown L.P., the current owner of the One Times Square bought the building in 1997 for a stunning $110 million.
As we entered the 21st century, things didn’t become better for the aging landmark. Time Warner closed their store there, while a J. C. Penny and a Walgreens moved in. Walgreens also brought the largest LED digital sign to Times Square.
The zipper was removed in 2019, 90 years after it was installed. This was necessitated by the fact that a 350 ft. screen was installed on the front of the tower. All the billboards were also removed.
The planned renovation will transform One Times Square into a modern visitor center with an observation platform. It will give visitors a chance to see the famous New Year’s Eve Ball while enjoying the nearby elevated views.
Another highlight will be the museum. It will explore the history of this building and Times Square as a whole. And, of course, the importance of the annual midnight festivities.
Another upgrade will be the building on 42nd Street. It plans to be a destination for brand experiences. It will include “the integration of digital, virtual and augmented reality”. Jamestown L.P will invest about $500 million.
The new, state-of-the-art subway entrance, iced with Nick Cave’s mosaic is also a part of that renovation.
Times Square Ball Drop
The Times Square Ball Drop, organized by Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment is a Christmas staple along with the Radio City Rockettes, the Rockefeller Christmas tree, and a few more.
The ball drop is just the icing on the cake. The whole event is usually accompanied by a large concert or the presence of celebrities.
Through the years, the Times Square Ball went through many incarnations, remaining technologically relevant. The first ball that was dropped off the One Times Square was created with wood, and iron, and lit by 100 incandescent light bulbs. It went into the new millennia with a surface of triangular crystal panels (which contain inscriptions representing a yearly theme), and in 2008 was redesigned to feature LED lights.