The story of the two men who first opened the Cafe’ Edison and the hotel in Times Square is the stuff Broadway plays are written about. Cafe’ Edison’s Harry Edelstein and the Edison Hotel’s original owner, Ulo Barad, met in Warsaw–both survivors of the Holocaust. The rental agreement between the two men for the cafe consisted of a handshake between two good friends. The cafe’ never had a real lease. Although the cafe’ and hotel are still in the hands of the same two families, that relationship came to an end this past weekend.
William Shakespeare is not only one of the most widely read English authors, but also one of the most easily recognizable, with his beard, mustache, and oblong shaped head. As a result, he has been commemorated and memorialized throughout New York City. Below, we explore some of those many places where you can find references to the Bard of Stratford-Upon-Avon.
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Times Square, then Long Acre Square.
We’ve been doing a bit of research about Times Square these days, in a forthcoming book about the history of Broadway that we’re working on. The Library of Congress has as great repository of vintage photographs and we’d thought we’d share the striking evolution of Times Square from 1898 to today.
Image via Cryptome
The Empire Theatre, now the AMC Empire 25 in Times Square has a colorful history, with an interior designed by Thomas Lamb who created many of New York’s impressive theaters like the Loews Mayfair Theater nearby, the now abandoned RKO Keith’s Theater in Flushing, and many along Broadway. Today, the theater is one of the centerpieces of the revitalized 42nd Street but it doesn’t actually sit in its original location. In fact, the whole building was lifted from its foundation and moved 168 feet westwards in 1997. The 3,700 ton structure was converted into the entrance way to a new retail complex. The original Thomas Lamb interior is now the lobby of the AMC Theater and if you keep your eyes open, there are many fun historical details that have been left.
In 1973, things were pretty dicey in New York City. The economy was tanking, crime was up, and Times Square was nothing like it is today. In fact, in 1973 the Office of Midtown Planning and Development was created by Mayor John Lindsay to begin the “cleaning up” of Times Square and vicinity. First on the list of attack were massage parlors, seen as a breeding ground for the prostitution industry that was openly operating on street corners. Lindsay proclaimed that “phony massage parlors [were] nothing more than fronts for houses of prostitution.”
This map by the Office of Midtown Planning and Development locates the massage parlors, spas, “presumed prostitution hotels,” single room occupancy hotels (SRO), peep shows, live burlesque shows, and adult book and video stores in Midtown.
Mosaic of 6 entry boards for the Municipal Art Society competition. (Credits: William F Schacht & Cassandra Mcgowen, Richard Haas & Judith DiMaio, Gilbert Gorski, Frank Lupo & Daniel Rowen, Lee Dunnette, Jaime Gonzales-Goldstein & Martin Maurin, George Ranalli, Paul Bentel & Carol Rusche)
Now through January 2015, the Skyscraper Museum is presenting the exhibit Times Square 1984: The Postmodern Moment. The exhibit takes visitors back to the seedy, crime ridden, nostalgic Times Square of the late 1970s early 1980s. In 1984, the Municipal Art Society and the National Endowment for the Arts organized an alternative “ideas competition” for Times Square with a $10,000 prize, in reaction to a critically panned proposal by Philip Johnson and John Burgee. The request for proposals drew more than five hundred entrants and widespread press attention. The New York Times recently highlighted this new exhibit in a slideshow highlighting 20 of the boards museum director Carol Willis was able to track down.