The intersection of Broadway, 47th Street and Seventh Avenue was known as Longacre Square in the 19th century. The neighborhood around it was largely composed of horse traders, stables, and carriage works.
In 1903 the New York Times built their headquarters at the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue. The city then obligingly renamed the intersection Times Square.
A much larger image dated 1904 can be seen at Shorpy, and is full of interesting detail.
From the New York Times
50th Street from Broadway to Seventh Avenue
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY
Published: September 13, 1998
BEFORE the old Times Tower or the Astor Hotel, before the theaters, the nightclubs or the peep shows, when it was not Times Square but Longacre Square, the area north of 42d Street was the horse center of New York City. Now, more than a century after it was built, the last vestiges of the American Horse Exchange, which became part of the Winter Garden Theater between 50th and 51st Street from Broadway to Seventh Avenue, may soon disappear.
Light industry settled along the slice of Broadway north of 42d Street in the 1860’s, and by the 1870’s wagon factories, harness shops and horse dealers concentrated in the area, named Longacre after the carriage district in London.
In 1881 William K. Vanderbilt and a group of investors built the area’s biggest building, the American Horse Exchange, on the blockfront of 50th Street from Broadway to Seventh Avenue, stretching most of the way up to 51st Street. Vanderbilt’s associates included leading millionaire-horsemen like William Jay, George Wetmore and Frederic Bronson — ”gentlemen of vast means,” as they were called by The New York Times in 1894, to whom profits were ”of no consequence.”
They wanted only that the exchange be self-sustaining, that it provide a scrupulously reliable center for thoroughbred horse trading. Period accounts made it clear that there were plenty of lemons in the equestrian market.
The Times quoted auction fees ranging from $5 a head on horses costing under $300 to 5 percent on those over $1,000, and said that the two-story brick building was ”the safest in the city.”
But in 1896 fire swept though the American Horse Exchange, almost leveling it and killing about 60 of the 265 horses stabled there, the property of owners and dealers from as far away as Chicago, Michigan and Kentucky. Six thousand people crowded around the blazing building, sometimes blocking horses from escaping. The New York Times said that, through the windows, ”crazed animals could be seen dashing blindly about in their terror.” Loose horses were recovered from all over midtown.
Vanderbilt reconstructed the American Horse Exchange in 1897. His architect, A. V. Porter, reused a portion of the surviving walls to create a two-, three- and four-story structure with a high covered ring 160 by 80 feet, bridged by open trusswork and with perimeter walls of brick with round-arched windows. In the opening exhibit, Chester, a brown gelding owned by Adelaide Doremus, won in the category of best saddle horse.