Times Square In The 1970s

1st April 1970: A sex shop featuring peep shows, and the McAuley missionary sit side by side at 42nd street and Dyer avenue in Times Square, New York. (Photo by Walter Leporati/Getty Images)
Times Square got its start as Longacre Square when it was the site of William H. Vanderbilt’s American Horse Exchange; at the time, the large open space was surrounded by apartments. With the introduction of electricity, and other changes, traffic began to increase, and Adolph S. Ochs, the owner of The New York Times from 1896 to 1935, decided to build the Times Tower there, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue and 42nd and 43rd Streets. By World War I, Times Square was attracting most of the legitimate theaters, as well as restaurants like the Astor and the Knickerbocker. With the expansion of public transportation, Times Square grew dramatically and became the hub of the city. Unfortunately, the Great Depression changed this; theaters closed and “grinder” houses that showed sexually explicit films opened. This was followed by the opening of burlesque shows, peep shows, dance halls, and penny arcades. Prostitution proliferated the neighborhood, and it became the place for soldiers on leave to seek out erotic entertainment; conditions would only continue to deteriorate until they reached their low point in the 1970s.