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

by Denise Marie

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.

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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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