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New Year’s Eve in 1904 brought in a new year and a new tradition: the first over-crowded celebration of the New Year in Times Square. Alfred Ochs, owner of The New York Times, initiated the New Years celebration to honor the opening of New York Times headquarters in Times Square.
The celebration spared no budget. It was a full-day festival culminating in a fireworks display set off from the brand new New York Times tower, which overlooked Broadway and 43rd street. At least 200,000 people attended. It was the biggest party the city knew — attendees’ noisemakers were heard at least 30 miles north at Croton on Hudson.
We would like to note that this celebration had no ball. Ochs introduced a New Year ball-drop when his fireworks were outlawed in 1907. The first ball was made of iron and wood, it was covered with 25 watt lightbulbs, and it weighed 700 pounds.
What we know today as “Times Square” was originally called Longacre Square. The area was renamed in honor of the tall, gothic New York Times tower overlooking the square. The tower was the second-tallest in Manhattan. The New York Times quickly outgrew that tower and moved less than a block away to their current headquarters at 229 West 43rd street. For a meta experience, check out the 1904 New York Times article announcing the new name of its square.
Read more from our column On this Day in NYC History.