42nd Street: At the Crossroads
(Page 3: Times Square)An excerpt from "Down 42nd Street: Sex, Money, Culture, and Politics
at the Crossroads of the World"
by Marc Eliot
Jump to: 1 (Ed Koch) | 2 (The Subway) | 3 (Times Square) | 4 (Jimmy Walker)
5 (Chrysler Building) | 6 (Fiorello Henry La Guardia) | 7 (Post WWII)
Legitimate theater impresarios now fell over one another to open new playhouses in a neighborhood that just a few years earlier none would go near, believing then that Long Acre would never be good for anything but crime, drugs, and prostitution. Before the arrival of the New York Times, the square had developed more of a carnival atmosphere than one conducive to a corporate alley. Not long after, dozens of prostitutes worked both sides of the Times Tower, resulting in relatively few new nonentertainment big-dollar investors relocating directly on 42nd Street.
Indeed, the business of sex dramatically increased its visibility on the city's newest and most popular main drag as its purveyors moved to compete for the newly available entertainment dollars by dressing up their street women and fashionably upscaling the houses they occupied. Onetime two-dollar streetwalkers now dressed in high style and proudly walked with umbrellas twirling on their shoulders in the midday sun. They could afford to spend money on clothes and accessories, as most worked two jobs, one as a prostitute and one as a showgirl at the many new dance halls built along the west side of the street-often referred to now as "Soubrette Row"to accommodate the neighborhood's growing everyday populace. Five years into the new century 42nd Street became the showcase boulevard where merchants of the sunny side competed with hawkers of the shady to sell the workingman his ticket to get into, if not in on, the great American dream.
As for Abram Hewitt, whose original vision of a subway had led to the first great wave of commercial development on 42nd Street, historical anonymity was to be his fate. Hewitt never again enjoyed any widespread measure of public acceptance. Economic decline, meanwhile, eventually befell the New York publishing empire of William Hearst, whose sensationalist moral outrage he continued to vent in his papers. No longer just Jews but Democrats, union organizers, Wall Street speculators, bootleggers, and show business entrepreneurs all came before the loaded barrel of his editorial gun. Nevertheless, none of his publications was able to displace the stalwart New York Times as it became the city's, and the nation's, newspaper of record.
Copyright © 2001 by Rebel Road, Inc. All rights reserved. Posted with permission of http://www.twbookmark.com.