Times Square is one of the most notable tourist attractions in New York. Every year over 100 million people visit the location for its Broadway shows, television studios, restaurants, and symbolic status.
Times Square is mainly formed by the intersection of Broadway and 7th Avenue. The name is derived from Times Tower, The New York Times headquarters.
The Times Tower was completed in 1904, and The New York Times moved in a year later.
Before the place was named Times Square, it was known as Long Acre Square.
Many years ago, the popular venue was one of the sketchiest places in New York City, as these vintage Times Square pictures you are about to see will prove.
Times Square represented New York's blatant decadence during the first half of the twentieth century. This started during the Great Depression when the place was filled with prostitution and drugs.
Many vintage Times Square pictures from the period demonstrated the impact the economic crisis had on New Yorkers.
Eventually, Times Square was one of the most dangerous places in the city. At one point, more than 2,300 crimes were being committed every year in a single one-block radius.
1. Peep Show, Typical Of Vintage Times Square Pictures
Adult stores were all over the place in Times Square, and here, a man is looking at some of the offers a peep show store is promoting. Brothels run by criminals operated without inhibitions.
2. Flourishing Sex Trade
Although adult stores came first, the sex trade soon followed. The industry grew bigger due to the nearby highways and subways.
Law enforcement did not try to interfere with the trade, and this sex worker leaning on the hood of a police car in 1985 makes this abundantly clear.
3. Drug Use Also Increased
In addition to the thriving sex trade in Times Square, crack-cocaine use was also on the rise. In this photo, undercover cops arrested a man for dealing crack in 1986.
Such sights are typical in vintage Times Square pictures.
4. Cheap Peep Shows
Starting from 1966, 25-cent peep shows began in Times Square. Other adult stores such as strip clubs and sex stores soon followed, which made such shops a common feature in vintage Times Square pictures.
5. Adult Theaters All Over
Adult theaters were all over Times Square, as this photo shows. These Hare Krishna followers sing and play their instruments under a sign promoting an adult film titled Sweet Cakes.
6. Sleaziest Block In America
Adult stores were so popular in Times Square in the late '70s that Rolling Stone labeled it the sleaziest block in America. Many vintage Times Square pictures from the period proved them right.
7. Unconventional Street Acts
Unusual street acts became part of everyday life during Times Square's decadent years. In this picture, a man wearing nothing but a scanty leather outfit is climbing a billboard in 1980 on 44th street.
8. Respected Theaters Gave Way To Adult Movie Theaters
As the rot in Times Square continued, reputable businesses disappeared, as witnessed in many vintage Times Square pictures.
In their place were businesses that showed porn films that made the area seem like the adult entertainment industry dominated it.
9. Bill Murray
Here, Bill Murray is getting his photo taken in front of a popular 25-cent peep show in Times Square. This was in the mid-1970s.
10. Business As Usual
Prostitutes walked through Times Square streets in 1971. People did not seem bothered by such sights, which were common in vintage Times Square pictures.
11. Filthiest Show In Town
This photo shows tourists as they pass under a marquee promoting the "filthiest" show in town. This photo was taken in 1975.
12. Waiting For Customers
These exotic dancers are waiting for customers in Times Square. This was taken back in 2005, proving that vintage Times Square pictures aren't the only evidence of the area's decadent era.
Still, only a few adult stores were in operation in Times Square at this point.
13. House Of Paradise
This picture shows people talking about the notorious House of Paradise.
14. Increased Homelessness
Times Square had an increasingly greater number of homeless people in the '70s and '80s. Homelessness is evident in many vintage Times Square pictures such as this.
15. Sleeping On The Streets
A homeless man had to sleep on the sidewalk in 1985. He is just outside the McAuley Cremorne Mission.
16. Viewing Booths
This 1997 photo from Times Square shows women working in private viewing booths. One of the most damning vintage Times Square pictures.
17. Change Your Ways
This man is trying to win converts to Christianity. Just in front of him is a massive advertisement for an adult offering on 8th Avenue.
18. Had To Go
Howard Johnson's restaurant, which was opened in 1955, was torn down in 2005. It was one of the non-adult establishments in Times Square.
19. Neil Diamond
This 1975 picture shows singer Neil Diamond waiting for the 7 train.
20. Nudity Everywhere
Nude shows were quite popular in Times Square. In this photo, a man is standing at the entrance of a strip club in the '70s.
Such establishments are popular in vintage Times Square pictures.
21. Times Square, 1988
KRS-One and D-Nice pose for a picture in Times Square.
22. A New Normal
Here, people walk past an advertisement for Taboo II, an adult offering. They seem utterly unbothered because such sights were so familiar at the time.
This train, covered in graffiti, passes through a station in Times Square.
24. A Musical
This 1981 advert promotes a musical, Oh! Calcutta! It was at the corner of 8th Avenue and 42nd Street.
25. Local Heroes
Given the way things were going in Times Square, people yearned for safety, and volunteers came together to create the Guardian Angels.
In this picture, the group was getting ready to make subways safer in 1980.
26. Protesting Pornography
More than a few people were unhappy with the changes Times Square had experienced, especially with the proliferation of the sex industry. In this 1979 photo, Women Against Pornography (WAP) protest against pornography.
27. Time For A Change
In the '90s, there were attempts to lower the number of adult offerings in Times Square. The focus was on creating more family-friendly attractions.
Towards the start of the twenty-first century, many adult entertainment businesses had been done away with.
28. Times Square Nudity In The '80s
This picture shows an older man walking past a sign posted on a glass door showing a scantily dressed woman holding a bat in 1981.
29. Porn Shop With Live Shows
This adult shop offered live shows in Times Square in 1975.
30. Topless Bar
This picture taken in Times Square in 1975 shows men talking next to a topless bar.
31. Burlesque Shows
These posters advertise burlesque shows at Follies Burlesk and Gaiety Theater. The photo was taken in Times Square in 1975.
32. Porn Films
Porn films were a regular thing in Times Square during its most decadent years. This picture shows an usher at a movie theater that shows porn films.
The Scariest Era In The History Of Times Square
Charlie Ahearn created this video to show what Times Square looked like in the 1980s. The video is titled Doin' Time In Times Square, and some have labeled it "the home video from hell."
If you thought the above vintage Times Square pictures were shocking, this video would leave you terrified.