By Jack Stanley
Tour Guide at Uncle Sam’s New York Tours
Did you ever wonder how it all got there? How Broadway became Broadway? So often we hear all kinds of tales of this and that about Broadway, but what about the Broadway of the past? There are many stories and we will just touch of a few of them here.
You have to remember that where Broadway was years ago was in pretty close range to what was called the Tenderloin District. If you have never heard of it, it is long gone. But this was where you went in 1890 to do what polite society cared not to know. It was an area of drugs, prostitution, gambling, liquor and white slavery. It was the area were vice was the major component.
All of this changed as time when on, and by the end of the 19th century it was starting to move to another location. In the late 1890’s Oscar Hammerstein the first invested in the area called Long acre Square. He built a few theaters, and later an opera house.
By 1914 the place was home to nearly 30 theaters, opera houses, and of course the New York Times. In fact by 1905 the area would be called Times Square in honor of that company.
This was the place people like George M Cohan, Enrico Caruso, David Balasco, Al Jolson, Maude Adams, The Barrymores, and the first lady of theater Helen Hayes called home.
Today Broadway is alive with not only new and exciting shows, but rings true to it’s historic past. Everywhere you can find it, but it is often not too easy to see. That is why guided tours are so useful.
Guided tours are like a road map for history. It tells you where to look and what to know. So you don’t get lost in it all.
How do you find out information about these wonderful days of the past? There is a place you can count on. One that is taking the city by storm. Uncle Sam’s New York is such a company. The walking tours this company provides are often given by people who not only know the history, but have done theater as well.
That is called having the best of both worlds.
Perhaps one of the greatest entertainers on Broadway was Al Jolson. His comment was when ever he would come on stage “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” Look at Uncles Sam’s New York and take a walk on the great white way, and you will see all you have been missing.