The Flatiron Building: One of New York’s Most Unique Landmarks

by NYJ Team

When it was first built in 1902, the Flatiron Building was one of a kind, and it remains so well over a hundred years after its construction.

The famous wedge-shaped skyscraper sits at the meeting points of Fifth Avenue, 23rd St. and Broadway. The sharp end faces north, pointing directly into Madison Square Park and up along Fifth Avenue.

It was not originally named the Flatiron Building, but because its shape so resembled the old-fashioned style of clothing irons back in the day, it was quickly nicknamed “The Flatiron Building”, which caught on and became the eventual name of both the building and of the district that surrounds it.

Flatiron Building

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Architecture of the Flatiron Building
The Flatiron was first called the Fuller Building, headquarters of the Fuller Company. It was designed by famous Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, who brought his classic Chicago style to its design.

The building itself stood only twenty stories tall, but at the time, that was one of the highest in the city. It was the first skyscraper built north of 14th Street; and it was considered one of the first skyscrapers in America. Built on a steel frame with a limestone and terracotta façade, it is a beautiful example of Beaux-Arts style, designed to look like a ship, sailing up Fifth Avenue. Today, it is one of the few surviving examples of this unique early 20th century design and construction.

At the time, the public was uncertain about its appeal. The engineering of the steel-framed building was highly praised, but reviews of its look were decidedly mixed. Yet it didn’t take long for the Flatiron Building to appear in numerous works of art and photography, eventually becoming the icon it is today.

What’s In the Flatiron Building?
When it first opened, the building was home to its owners, the Fuller Company, as well as to a number of publishers and small businesses. In the years since then, many companies have come and gone, and it is still a working office building. In fact, it is still home to several publishing companies.

As you might expect, many of the office inside have unusual shapes, and the offices at the “point” are considered the most important, both for their unique dimensions and for their spectacular and unparalleled views right up Fifth Avenue toward the Empire State Building.

There are number of other oddities about the building. The men’s and women’s bathrooms alternate floors, and to reach the top floor, you have to take a second elevator (because the 21st floor was added to the top three years after the original building was built.)

The Flatiron Building in Popular Culture
Today, the Flatiron Building appears in almost every movie, television show, work of art or photograph meant to symbolize New York. It has served as the headquarters for the Daily Bugle in Spider-Man and for Channel 6 News in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both Marvel Comics and Dynamite Comics also use it for fictional HQs in a number of storylines.

Visiting the Flatiron Building
Since the Flatiron Building is a working office building, there really isn’t a way to get inside the building without an appointment with one of its tenants. You can visit the shops in the lobby, of course, however they are quite modern and don’t really give you a sense of the building’s unique style.

The best way to experience the landmark is by appreciating it for its exterior design. Head across the street to Madison Square Park for a public art exhibit or an outdoor concert in the summer and enjoy your view of this unique building from a beautiful urban oasis.

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Apollo Theatre: A Standing Tribute to the History of African-American Arts and Music

by NYJ Team

The Apollo Theatre stands on West 125th Street, just north of Central Park and right in the heart of New York’s Harlem neighborhood. It is a music hall, a national landmark and a beacon of American music history.

From its heyday in the late 1930s to its modern incarnation, the Apollo has come to stand for all that is great about American music and the contributions of African-Americans to the soul of New York City and the country as a whole.

Apollo Theater

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History of the Apollo
The Apollo Theater began life as the New Burlesque Theater; a neo-classic theater which opened its doors in 1914 as a whites-only venue. It ran popular burlesque shows for years, until it fell into disrepute and disrepair in the 1930s. In 1933, the building was sold after soon-to-be New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia campaigned to close down burlesques.

The building was renovated and then reopened in 1934 as the Apollo Theater. This time it was open to patrons of all colors, and it began showcasing African-American acts, featuring performances by everyone from swing acts and jazz musicians to gospel singers and comedians.

The theater grew to its heyday in the pre-war era, when it labelled itself as the “place where stars are born”. The list of performers who graced the stage at the Apollo is nothing short of legendary; including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Sam Cooke, Mahalia Jackson, Bill Cosby, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Otis Redding, to name just a few of its most legendary acts.

The Apollo, and its Harlem community, hit hard times in the 1970s, but both have since rebounded to embrace a new era.   After the turn of the 21st century, the theatre was renovated and restored to its original glory.

Amateur Night at the Apollo
Since it re-opened its doors in 1934, the most popular nights at the Apollo have been Amateur Nights, complete with “The Executioner” who sweeps bad acts off the stage, and full participation from a famously critical and vocal audience.

The list of people who got their start at Amateur Night reads like a who’s who of American culture. A 15-year-old Ella Fitzgerald won $25 here on one of the first Amateur Nights. Other stars that got their debut at the Apollo include Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Mariah Carey and Sammy Davis Jr.

Visiting the Apollo
The best way to visit the Apollo Theater is to come for Amateur Night. Amateur Night celebrated its 80th season in 2014, and is still held every Wednesday at 7:30pm from January to October. You can buy tickets in person at the box office, or at ticketmaster.com. Tickets range from $20 to $32, but plan far in advance as this popular event sells out incredibly fast.

You can also buy tickets to any of the remarkable concerts staged at the Apollo all year round. You can see anything here from a cutting edge comedy act to a dance recital to a world class concert by one of the world’s biggest stars. The Apollo seats about 1,500 people for one concert, but every year, more than a million people visit the theater.

If concert tickets are sold out, you can take a walking tour of the Apollo Theatre, led by the theater’s resident historian, Billy Mitchell, who has been with the Apollo since he started as a teenaged stagehand in the 1960s. Tours last an hour and cost $16 on weekdays, $18 on weekends. Call 212-531-5337 to make tour arrangements.