28 Photos That Show How Much Times Square Has Changed

From pornos to Elmos. This post actually doubles as a history of outdoor advertising.

1. 1898

Getty Images Hulton Archive

Here’s the intersection of Broadway and 42nd Street back when it was known as Longacre Square.

2. 1904

Getty Images FPG

This photo was taken shortly after the Times Tower was built and the intersection became known as Times Square. That’s the Astor Hotel on the right.

3. 1916

Getty Images Edwin Levick

You can see the New Amsterdam Theater on the left and the Rialto on the right.

4. 1921

Getty Images Edwin Levick

Times Square as seen from 45th Street. The Times Square we know today is taking shape around this time. Those are street car tracks in the foreground.

5. Circa 1927

Getty Images Hulton Archive

This photo was taken looking uptown from 43rd Street. There’s a lot more car traffic at this point.

6. 1935

Getty Images Frederic Lewis

Lots of still-familiar brands advertising in Times Square at this time – Chevrolet, Wrigley’s chewing gum, Coca-Cola, and Camel cigarettes.

7. 1938

Getty Images Lass

This shot is looking uptown along Broadway and 7th Avenue. Some gorgeous neon signage in this shot.

8. 1945

Getty Images Lawrence Thornton

These people are celebrating V. E. Day on May 7th 1945.

9. 1950

Getty Images Orlando

Just a business dude chilling out by a streetlight.

10. 1953

Getty Images Hulton Archive

Here’s a lot of great theater marquees along West 42nd Street.

11. 1956

Getty Images Hulton Archive

Neon lights at night. You definitely get a better sense of the vibe there with a color image.

12. 1961

By SAS Scandinavian Airlines (images.flysas.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

Just a few years later, in broad daylight. Some great vintage signage in this shot.

13. 1966

Getty Images Leo Vals

There’s a great moody, late night vibe to this shot. You could make a night of buying sporting goods at Modell’s, walking down the block to get a steak for dinner, and then heading across the street to catch a late show of Queen of Blood.

14. 1973

Dan McCoy / Via commons.wikimedia.org

Ooooooh, hey, stop the car! Young Nympho is playing in full color!

15. 1975

Getty Images Peter Keegan

The neighborhood has really committed to a full-on sleazy vibe at this point in time.

16. 1977

Derzsi Elekes Andor / Via commons.wikimedia.org

Just a casual afternoon in the late ’70s. Maybe this dude is about to cross the street to catch a matinee of Smokey and the Bandit.

17. 1980

Getty Images David Herman

The Pussycat was a porno theater on 42nd Street. The marquee is advertising Insatiable starring Marilyn Chambers.

18. 1981

Vaticanus / Via Flickr: vaticanus

“Sadism, gore, and extreme violence. Vain, brutal, extravagant.” Hmm, yes, one for Caligula, please!

19. 1985

Getty Images George Freston

That Howard Johnson’s was in Times Square for 46 years, from 1959 through 2005.

20. 1989

Joe Shlabotnik / Via Flickr: joeshlabotnik

Here’s some folks posing in late ’80s Times Square. Diet Coke is being advertised instead of regular Coca-Cola, which was being marketed as Coke at the time. (Or “New Coke,” as it’s known today.)

21. 1993

arco_on_tour / Via panoramio.com

And just a few years later, it’s back to regular Coca-Cola, or as it was marketed at the time, “Coca-Cola Classic.”

22. 1995


This photo was taken nearly two years into the Giuliani era. The character of the neighborhood has changed quite a bit at this point, and the “Disneyfiction” of the area was well under way.

23. 1999


Times Square on December 31st, 1999. The tradition of having a big celebration and the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve dates back to 1907. A good number of the people in this image were definitely paranoid about the Y2K bug.

24. 2002

Getty Images

Times Square was frequently crowded in the late ’90s and early ’00s with pop music fans who hung around outside the MTV studio on 1515 Broadway for daily tapings of TRL. This photo was shot at a taping of a live performance by Bon Jovi for an event celebrating the beginning of the 2002 NFL season.

25. 2004

Getty Images Stephen Chernin

Here’s a relatively chill midday moment in Times Square a full century after it got its name. You can spot a lot of brands who’ve been advertising in the area for generations.

26. 2008

Javier Gutierrez Acedo / Via Flickr: javigutierrez

The Virgin Megastore, which you can see around the center of this shot, was closed a year later. It was replaced by a Forever 21.

27. 2012

Neo II / Via Flickr: neo_ii

Here’s Times Square a few years after Mayor Michael Bloomberg permanently transformed much of the area into a pedestrian plaza, and one year after an outdoor smoking ban was passed.

28. 2015

Alky Jones / Via Flickr: alkyjones

And here’s Times Square today. Totally overrun with dudes in Elmo suits.

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