Times Square is a major entertainment center and tourist destination of New York, attracting over 50 million visitors a year. However, before Time Square was a major attraction point, it was home to adult theaters, burlesque shows, go-go bars, sex shops, peep shows, and night clubs. The New York Times described 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenue as the worst place in town in the 1960s. During the 70s and 80s, the crime rates were high, and police morale was low, with over 2,300 crimes committed every year in a one-block radius.
After the Great Depression Times Square fell into disrepair, sex shops, grindhouses, and adult theaters slowly took over the music halls and boutique hotels. The neighborhood areas became an open market for drugs and prostitution. Buildings were left vacant, becoming home to squatters as they fell into disrepair. One of the city’s busiest corridors, every day, thousands of people would have to pass under the marquees of numerous adult theaters lining the street.
These vintage historical photographs will give you a glimpse of Time Square at the peak of its degradation in the 1970s and 1980s.
Also check, The Combat zone — adult enthronement district in downtown Boston in the 70s.
As the Guardian describes, "Times Square’s venerable old theatres and spectacular movie palaces were torn down for office buildings or allowed to slowly rot away, showing scratchy prints of cheesy second-run films or pornography, which any casual visitor might have thought was the city’s leading industry."