Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The history of One Times Square

From the New Yorker:

The home of the New Year’s Eve ball — One Times Square — started out as the headquarters of the Times; it displayed early illuminated billboards and the famous news ticker. New Yorker staffers have made numerous trips to the building. A 1961 Talk of the Town story reported that “there was a time when a speakeasy was going full blast in one of the basements … and when the F.B.I. — this was during the Second World War — was holding pistol practice in a basement and using a seventh floor office to trap German spies.”

The building, eventually sold to Jamestown Properties, is now mostly unoccupied. The abandoned floors are littered with graffiti and the remnants of old signs. On New Year’s Eve, around a million people are expected to pack Times Square and fix their eyes on the ball. When it comes down, though, it will land above a building that has been empty for years.


Anonymous said...

Empty building, located near tons of public transportation and many job opportunties.

Sounds like a good place for a Homeless Shleter, no?

Oh, thats right. they wouldnt do that. Much better off in Queens where there is no subway access, no grocery store, and in a residential community where there are no jobs to be had.

Anonymous said...

Stop it! We don't want the tourists giving any change to the homeless. they might get the wrong idea, that most of us are out of work.

Anonymous said...

they cover up the whole side with billboards
the owners make more money off giant billboards than they would ever make off office space..

if they wanted to use the office space they'd have to upgrade all the systems as this is not Grade A office space and is likely not safe for occupancy as is..

much ado about nothing.

Alan Gross said...

While the video history of One Times Square was interesting, it omitted an important component...credit to Douglas Leigh, the outdoor advertising visionary. Douglas Leigh created many of the iconic Times Square advertising signs, including the Camel Smoke Ring sign and many others. Leigh also created the Holiday Snowflake on 5th Avenue and the lighting system on top of the Empire State Building which was recently updated with a 21st Century LED lighting array.

Mr. Leigh, however, had a lot to do with One Times Square. It was his zipper sign that ran around the base of the building informing people about current news events. We became friends a few years before his passing and had lengthy conversations about his advertising business and accomplishments. He owned and operated blimps between World War II and the Korean War. It was this fact that caused me to seek him out in order to find out more.

I learned a lot about his blimp operations but was pleased to find him willing to share other aspects of his lengthy career. He told me that he purchased the Times Building with the intent to convert it into a building with no tenants in order to cover it with advertising signs. He explained that it was cheaper than a building with tenants and would be more profitable. I have some of his architectural renderings showing the changeover of facades etc.

As we prepare for the annual Times Square New Year's celebration, let's acknowledge the building's history and hope that it has a long and profitable future. It is, after all, the most famous destination for revelers anxious to bring in a new, and better year.

Douglas Leigh will always be a source of inspiration for me. In our many conversations and visits, I learned a lot about advertising but more importantly, I was impressed with his ability to run a successful business without the "cutthroat" strategies of his competitors. He was a true soft-spoken southern gentleman and a generous soul.


"His life was an exuberant exercise in creative attention-getting. He owned and operated blimps on both the East and West Coasts used to advertise Wonder Bread, Mobil gasoline and other products. In the 1960's, he owned One Times Square, the building where the ball is dropped on New Year's Eve. He stripped off the marble facade and envisioned the building as what it now is, a showcase for signs."