161 Megawatts of pure brightness and beauty!
So, How much electricity is Times Square using every night? Where did the name come from? How much does it cost to put your face on the big screen? All of that and much more in a story about Times Square.
The Times Square lights
Ok, It was 11pm in October of 2016. I was still feeling the effects of Jet-lag. It was my first trip to the USA but the pain in my back and the ringing in my ears did not stop my friends and I from wandering around the New York City streets. We were walking down 49th Street completely inebriated by the beauty of the sprawling city. I was pretty sure that we were going toward something awesome but to be honest, I wasn’t thinking about the destination at all; We could have walked like that for days and I would be happy! The streets are just dragging you into the infinite loop of lights, concrete and sound so beautiful and uniquely New York City.
The numbness from the flight and the convergence of senses made me mentaly unprepared for what was about to happen. In front of us, there was a gold and purple light illuminating the sides of the giant buildings. The more we walked, the closer we got, the lights got increasingly brighter. It was too late to prepare myself and to hide that gasp of fascination.
You are in Times Square, baby! The lights are so bright; night becomes day and the jetlag fades. You are now just bathing in the brightness of times square, absorbing the endless stream of people walking. Most are just as excited as you are - they are tourists also experiencing the city and lights for the first time.. The crowds of people push towards the center, everyone heading towards the same communal space surrounded by the lights and magic of times square. Stand there and look down any street through the canyons of concrete and steal.
And yes, once you recover from the initial shock of the brightness and madness that engulfs you. You get to explore the space and see it more clearly:
As you already realised, light is something that gives a stamp to Times Square. Buildings that surround it are covered with screens playing colourful commercials of some of the leading brands. It’s sort of New York’s social media: If you are not on the big screen, you do not exist. Time square uses 161 Megawatts of electricity every night! Just to understand the number, with this amount of power you can light 1.6 million light bulbs (100w). For those who understand storms, 161 Megawatts is power generated by a lightning strike. Massive power!
Name and development:
Times Square was built in 1903 and before it’s original name was “Longanchor” square (1 anchor long). A cool thing is that if you look at Times Square, you will notice that it is not square shaped at all. It is more like two triangles, almost like a bowtie shape. In the beginning of the 20th century the area was not so popular. It was filled with all sorts of criminals and prostitution was blooming as well. Fun, right?! City needed to clear the area so they needed an ally. At that time New York Times was looking for an attractive area to build their headquarters. They agreed to build on “Longanchor” square but only if the City renames the Square after them. Done! We have a deal! A century after that, not many people know the original name. Along with the New York Times, Broadway theatre is coming to the area making it even more popular and upscale. Building a metro stop made the area more connected with the rest of the city.
Can you imagine Times Square in the pitch dark?
Times Square was built in 1903 and was originally named “Longanchor” square (1 anchor long). A cool thing is that if you look at Times Square, you will notice that it is not square at all. It is in fact more like two triangles, almost like a bowtie shape converging together.. In the beginning of the 20th century the area was not a family friendly tourist destination it is today.. It became a place filled with all sorts of criminals, prostitutes and other unsavory characters.. Fun, right?! The city needed to clean up the neighborhood and so they needed an ally. At the time, New York’s most respected paper; The New York Times was looking for an attractive area to build their headquarters. They agreed to build on “Longanchor” square but only if the City renames the Square after them. Done! We have a deal!
A century after that, not many people know the origin of the name. Along with the New York Times, Broadway theatres have increased their presence. The city then added Subway service and times square begins to take the form we have today.
Yeah! Times Square was not such a popular area and one of the things that changed it were street lights! Bradway needed city lights so that New Yorkers could enjoy the theater in later hours so the city added lights to enable this. Imagine if you could show today's lights on Time Square to a lady or a gentleman who lived in the early 20th century. Today 460,000 pedestrians walk through Times Square on the busiest days!
One Times Building:
When someone says Times Square, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably, One Times Building. Yeah, that's the one that hosts New Years Eve “ball drop” every December 31st. That’s the original New York Times building that changed the area. It was built in 1904 by architect Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz. It’s a 25 story, 363 foot-high (111 m) building. The New York Times is not inside anymore. In 1970 the headquarters of New York Times moved a couple of blocks away. The building itself generates headspining amounts of money every month. You would probably think that it is always crowded and you are, like me, imagining the view from the inside of the building filled with hard working New Yorker’s. Well, you are wrong.. The building is empty… The only tenants of the One Times building is a Walgreens store located at the base of the building. So wait, how is an empty building generating huge amounts of buks?! Yes! You guessed it, by selling the advertising space.
Building of the One Times Square building, 1904.
Let’s get rich:
Alright, you have a new product that you want to blast! Or, you are a recent country singer that wants to announce a new single. Or you just want simply to brag about something! So how much money would you need to put yourself on one of the screens of the One Times Building. Are you ready: $500,000 every month! And that is just for the smallest screen! The space on the One Times building is considered to be one of the most expensive advertising spaces on the planet! The great idea for this usage of the building came from Lehman brothers who were the owners of the building up to 1995, when they filed for bankruptcy… Yeah, I know! Crazy, right!
Ok, so there you have it. A small part of the bustling and illuminating atmosphere of one of the most popular Squares of the world. There are so many other stories that can be told, but I would like to live that for the in person meeting. I hope that you will be one of the 50 million visitors that come to Times Square every year. I am waiting for you.