I went inside the eerily empty skyscraper in Times Square that's home to the New Year's Eve ball

foto-select / ShutterstockThe almost entirely-empty One Times Square building sits in the heart of the busiest neighbourhood in New York.
  • One Times Square is one of the most iconic buildings in America and among the most expensive real estate in the world.
  • On New Year’s Eve, about one million people gather around it while another billion watch it on TV as the New Year’s Eve ball drops on its metal roof deck.
  • But for the other 364 days of the year, One Times Square is a relatively quiet place. The 23-story building sits almost completely empty, save for the Walgreens downstairs and the only other occupant, the New Year’s Eve Headquarters on the 22nd floor.
  • Perhaps one of the most unique features about One Times Square, apart from the New Year’s Eve ball, is that it doesn’t really need tenants. The building’s billboards have generated more than $US23 million a year and are among the most lucrative public advertisements in the world.
  • We recently took a tour of the building and got an up-close look at the mesmerising crystal New Year’s Eve ball that’s covered in coloured lights.
  • When I stepped inside the building, I was thrilled to feel like I was taking a step back in time, especially when I got to see the old New York Times headquarters.
  • It also felt slightly eerie walking around a landmark that’s filled with little more than remnants of past tenants, while Times Square, New York City’s busiest neighbourhood, was still bustling outside.
  • Take a look inside.
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This is the New Year’s Eve ball in Times Square, New York — there’s a good chance you’re one of the billion people who watch it drop on New Year’s Eve.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe New Year’s Eve ball.

Source: Times Square


It sits on top of One Times Square patiently waiting 364 days each year for its moment of late December glory.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe New Year’s Eve ball.

In addition to the billion people who watch it on TV each year, about a million people gather around One Times Square to watch this crystal ball drop each year.

Flickr/amelungcA New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square.

Source: USA Today


Celebrating the New Year with the Times Square ball-drop is an iconic American tradition that’s more than 100 years old.

Flickr / Anthony QuintanoA New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square.

Source: National Geographic


And the ads on the landmark are seen by more than one billion people worldwide, making the ad space on the building worth quite a bit. The building generates about $US23 million a year from its signage.

JamestownTimes Square on New Year’s Eve in the first minute of 2015.

Source: Business Insider


But for the rest of the year, the building is mostly empty, aside from the Walgreens on the ground floor and the New Year’s Eve headquarters on the 22nd floor.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderOne Times Square is also known as 1475 Broadway.

And walking around the mostly-empty building that’s rich with history while people hurry around outside eerily made it feel like time was standing still inside One Times Square.

George Rose/Getty Images/Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The building is mostly empty because it would require a lot of work and expense to bring it up to current building codes …

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA mostly-abandoned floor in One Times Square.

… and the building’s small floor plate makes it difficult to utilise, according to representatives of the building’s owner, Jamestown Properties.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA mostly-abandoned floor in One Times Square.

Source: Atlas Obscura


Aside from being used as storage space in some areas …

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA mostly-abandoned floor in One Times Square.

… most floors of the building aren’t being used.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA mostly-abandoned floor in One Times Square.

We quickly saw how much work would go into renovating the interior. Exposed steel can be seen on pillars on some floors …

Joey Hadden/Business Insiderexposed steel on a mostly-abandoned floor in One Times Square.

… giving them an eerie look.

Joey Hadden/Business Insiderexposed steel on a mostly-abandoned floor in One Times Square.

These are the barest bones of an exit sign that I have ever seen.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA mostly-abandoned floor in One Times Square.

And some parts of the ceiling appeared to be slowly crumbling away.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe ceiling on a mostly-abandoned floor in One Times Square.

Even though parts of the building could use some work …

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderExposed ceiling in a mostly-abandoned floor in One Times Square.

… I was still able to appreciate the building’s history and imagine the people who used to occupy it.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA mostly-abandoned floor in One Times Square.

Source: Jamestown


This wall on the seventh floor of the building was painted by artist Domingo Zapata, who painted the mural that is currently displayed on the exterior of the building and used this space to practice his art.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA mostly-abandoned floor in One Times Square.

Source: Jamestown


Long before then, another floor was home to a restaurant …

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA mostly-abandoned floor in One Times Square.

Source: Jamestown


… while this section of the floor was used as a bar.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA mostly-abandoned floor in One Times Square.

Source: Jamestown


This counter where bartenders slung their drinks …

Joey Hadden/Insider

… is still intact with colourful tiling.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA mostly-abandoned floor in One Times Square.

On this floor, you can also imagine the hustle and bustle inside the former New York Times newsroom. The building was built originally to serve as the newspaper’s headquarters.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThis floor was once the New York Times Headquarters before it was turned into restaurant and bar.

Source: Jamestown


Before the New York Times moved in, this area of New York was referred to as “Long Acre Square” after a carriage district in London, England.

The Library of CongressTimes Square in the early 20th century.

Source: New York Times, Business Insider, The Culture Trip


But when the building was completed in 1904, it was named the Times building for its function as the New York Times headquarters.

Library of CongressWorkmen risking their lives 27 stories above ground the Times Building, New York City.

Source: New York Times, Business Insider, The Culture Trip


And the square was then renamed to reflect the news organisation’s presence in the neighbourhood.

Library of CongressThe New York Times Building.

Source: New York Times, Business Insider, The Culture Trip


Throughout the 20th century, Times Square gained more popularity thanks to new subway lines …

Library of CongressTimes Square in the early 20th century.

Source: New York Times, Business Insider, The Culture Trip


… and New York Times owner Adolph Orchs, who found ways to generate crowds year-round by projecting news-worthy event information on boards on the sides of the building.

Times Square on an election election night in the early 20th centuryThe Times building during an election night in the early 20th century.

Source: New York Times, Business Insider, The Culture Trip


Today, Times Square is New York’s most visited tourist attraction. And One Times Square is right in the heart of it.

Source: Business Insider


Looking outside at the bustling streets of Times Square now from the windows of this quiet, almost-empty building made me feel like, inside, time was standing still.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA window in the New Year’s Headquarters.

But there is one floor that continues to have a function. Floor 22 is home to the New Year’s Eve Headquarters.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderNew Year’s Eve Headquarters floor in One Times Square.

Source: Jamestown


This is where people working on all different aspects of the annual New Year’s Eve celebration meet every year to collaborate on the event.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe room displays delicate New Yea’s Eve trinkets from all different years.

The New York Times put on the first New Year’s Eve celebration on the eve of 1905 using fireworks and dynamite.

New York TimesThe Times building in on New Year’s Eve in 1905.

Source: New York Times, Business Insider, The Culture Trip


The celebration was for the new year, but it was also a way for the Times to let everyone know about their new location.

Library of CongressTimes Square in the early 20th century.

Source: New York Times, Business Insider, The Culture Trip


The celebration was instantly iconic, and two years later when fireworks were banned, New York found a way to keep celebrating with the New Year’s Eve ball.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe New Year’s Eve ball in 2019.

Source: New York Times, Business Insider, The Culture Trip


The first New Year’s Eve ball weighed 700 pounds and contained 100 25-watt light bulbs. It first dropped on the building’s roof deck in 1907.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA photo of the millennium ball for the year 2000 at the New Year’s Eve Headquarters. First New Year’s Eve ball not pictured.

Source: New York Times, Business Insider, The Culture Trip


While visiting the New Year’s Eve headquarters, we got to see up close what the ball is made of. Waterford Crystal makes the New Year’s Eve ball out of 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles of various sizes.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA Waterford Crystal triangle.

Source: Times Square


After exploring the headquarters, we headed to the rooftop to see the ball itself. The rooftop provided views of Times Square, too …

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe rooftop of One Times Square.

… but the metal roof deck wasn’t as glamorous as I imagined it to be.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe rooftop of One Times Square.

I was definitely a bit spooked by the flooring on the roof and that I could see the floor below …

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe rooftop of One Times Square.

… but I forgot about all of that the moment I got to see the ball up close. It was mesmerising.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe rooftop of One Times Square.

With 672 LED modules and the ability to produce 16 million vibrant colours and billions of patterns, the ball creates a kaleidoscopic effect on top of Times Square.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe New Year’s Eve ball.

Source: Times Square


While One Times Square’s exterior glitters with the promise of new things, inside I was delighted to find a time capsule of New York’s iconic past.

Joey Hadden/Business Insider

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