Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Then and Now: 7th Avenue in Times Square, Manhattan

Then and Now: Wienerwald in Times Square

7th Avenue Times Square 1975
1560 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, New York in the spring of 1975 (Nick DeWolf).

Times Square in New York City is known as the "Crossroads of the world," among other things, because it is so busy. Some parts of Times Square, however, remain unchanging year after year and decade after decade. If something works, you stick with it, and that applies in Times Square as much as anywhere else. I stumbled across the above 1975 photo of 1560 Times Square, an address located on the east side of 7th Avenue between 46th and 47th Streets, and grew curious about what it looks like now. So, I did a comparison of 1560 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan from Spring 1975 to 2018. I used Google Street View for the most recent shot below.

It is easy to pinpoint the exact location due to the presence of the Embassy Theater (aka Embassy 1 Theater) which is at the extreme left of the 1975 shot (it is showing Irwin Allen's "Earthquake"). The Embassy closed in 1997 and, after renovation, was reopened in 1998 as the Times Square Visitor Center (retaining its iconic marquee). One of the most noticeable parts of the 1975 photo is the big green Wienerwald sign. Wienerwald ("Vienna Woods" in German) was a large (860 restaurants) chain of Austrian chicken restaurants (no, not wieners as you might have thought, which may have contributed to some of its difficulties in the United States). It was founded in the 1950s and was one of the first true franchises, going international long before its international counterparts. Wienerwald continued at this location until roughly 1982, when the company filed for bankruptcy. As part of its reorganization, Wienerwald closed all of its American restaurants (some Wienerwald restaurants continue in Austria).

Well, people have to eat, so another restaurant moved into the old Wienerwald spot. It didn't serve chicken, except on sandwiches.

7th Avenue Times Square 2013
This shot of the old Wienerwald site was taken 28 December 2013 (Paul Rudoff).

Yes, McDonald's took over the Wienerwald location around 1984 and has been there ever since. There is a certain irony to this since the growth of the US fast-food franchise industry is part of the reason why Wienerwald itself closed its store in the United States. This location at 1560 Seventh Avenue is a fairly famous spot. It was in Bobby Brown's music video for his song "On Our Town," for instance. Of course, any time a film shows someone traveling through Times Square it is likely to give a glimpse of the spot. As shown in the Google Street View shot below, the McDonalds itself has become somewhat of an institution in Times Square.

This just shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same. A good location for a food establishment is always going to be one so long as the area remains popular, and Times Square continues to attract visitors from around the world. It's would probably be a bit of a let-down for German tourists to wind up eating at a Wienerwald in Times Square, so maybe a more American-themed restaurant in that spot is for the best.

Anyway, thanks for visiting, and I hope you enjoyed this brief excursion back into the history of Times Square as much as I did.

7th Avenue Times Square 2018
1560 Seventh Avenue in Times Square, Manhattan ca. 2018 (Google Street View).

I also have pages for the other Wienerwald locations in New York City, there were three in all:
Why were they so closely bunched together? You'd have to ask them. But, there likely was enough foot traffic in the area to sustain them, so why not?


1 comment:

  1. The EPOK on the NE corner of 7th and 46th (above what was by then Flagg Bros. in the I. Miller building at 1554 Broadway) in that form dated to November 1940, but since fall 1965 (up to the point that photo was taken) had the last four of its 54 horizontal rows deactivated to accommodate the clock that, increasingly clunkily as the years went on, told the time by the nearest 10th of a second. (The Bulova ad finally exited that area in early 1976, as did the clock; the last to advertise on that early electronic sign display was Carlton cigarettes, through the start of 1977, after which it was turned off for good having been made obsolete by the "shiny new kid on the block" of One Times Square facing north at 43rd Street, Spectacolor.) The 76 vertical columns were apparently spaced on 4.875" centers, the horizontal rows on 4.5" centers. The numeral shapes were mostly associated with numeral jump clocks manufactured and controlled by Time-O-Matic (known today as Watchfire Signs LLC and very much in an LED mode), with the rows on 3.5" centers and columns on 4" centers; they had a sister catty-cornered dual set of clocks likewise telling the time this way on both north-facing and west-facing sides of the SE corner of 7th and 34th Street outside a jewelry and watch store from the late 1960's/early '70's to the early 2010's before the current Watchfire LED clock replaced it.

    Actually, this block was one block north of what became the Bertelsmann Building - on which the old Loew's Building (and Loews State theatres), plus a Howard Johnson's, once stood.