In the early to mid 1800s most of Manhattan was still countryside. The area that is now Herald Square was part of a farm owned by Francisco Bastiane, one of the few black men to own land before slavery was abolished in New York State.
In the mid to late 1800s, New York City underwent a major transformation from rural landscape to urban metropolis with the advent of public transportation. Built in the 1870s, the elevated Sixth Avenue train ran through the center of what is now the 34th Street district. Its construction led to the rapid growth and popularity of the Broadway Theater district and neighboring Sixth Avenue.
While Broadway flourished in the late 1800s and 1900s, attracting legendary theaters such as the Empire and the Casino, Sixth Avenue, from 23rd to 42nd Street, experienced a decline. Known for its plethora of gambling dens and brothels, Sixth Avenue quickly earned the nicknames "Satan's Circus" and the "Tenderloin."