HistoryThe Flatiron Building was completed in 1902, one of the earliest buildings to use steel construction and non-load bearing facades. At the time it was completed, it was one of the tallest buildings in Manhattan. You could see it all the way from Central Park. During construction, skeptics called the building, "Burnham's Folly," thinking the unusual design would never stand up to a strong wind. Burnham seems to have had the last word. It still stands over 100 years later. The name, Fuller Building, after Fuller Construction, the original tenant, never stuck. The public, from the beginning intrigued by the construction, dubbed it "The Flatiron Building" after the popular flatirons used for pressing. The Flatiron's design has been copied in buildings throughout the world. Notable "flatiron" buildings include those in Toronto, Atlanta, and Cleveland.
The ArchitectThe building was created in a Beaux Arts style, inspired by the buildings erected for the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, a celebration of the three hundred year anniversary of Christopher Columbus' first voyage. The Flatiron Building's architect, Daniel Burnham, was a Chicago native and an enthusiastic proponent of classicalism. After the Flatiron building, he would go on to create half a dozen landmark Chicago buildings as well as Washington DC's Union Station and Detroit's Ford Building. No less an architect than Frank Lloyd Wright names Burnham as one of his major inspirations.
The BuildingThe Flatiron Building stands 285 feet tall, with 22 stories. At its most narrow, on the tip, it is just 6.5 feet wide. The building has a steel frame with a limestone and glazed terra cotta tile facade. The stonework is modeled after French and Italian renaissance designs and the building has three distinct horizontal motifs, using fleur-de-lis, gargoyles, and eagles, among other adornments.
The Flatiron Building in Popular CultureThe Flatiron Building is a widely recognized icon of New York City and visitors can find postcards, replicas, key chains, and all sorts of souvenirs bearing its likeness. The building has been featured in a number of films, including the "Spiderman" movies (as the headquarters for the "Daily Bugle" newspaper), "Godzilla," "Bell, Book, and Candle," and "Hitch." The Flatiron Building also begat the (now dated) phrase "23 skidoo," meaning "scram." It seems the unique shape of the building created bursts of wind along 23rd Street and groups of boys would gather to see the wind blow up the girls' skirts. (Remember: this is the early 1900's.) The beat policemen would call to the boys "23 skidoo" to disperse the crowd.
Visiting Flatiron BuildingMadison Square Park, across from the southern end of the building, is a good place to sit and admire the unobstructed view of the Flatiron.
Location: 175 Fifth Avenue (bounded by Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street & Broadway), New York City, NY
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