Flatiron Building NYC
Viewers tuning into opening credits of the Late Show with David Letterman would have recognized the Flatiron Building. Located at 175 5th Ave, the triangular-shaped building is often used as an image to represent New York City. The unique aesthetic has even garnered it the distinction as "one of the world's most iconic skyscrapers."
As you might have guessed, the Flatiron Building takes its name from its unique shape. The odd wedge-shape actually does bear more than a passing resemblance to a clothes iron. While “Flatiron” was not the original name of the building, the nickname stuck after locals in the early 1900s persisted in using the identifier rather than its first moniker, The Fuller Building.
Flatiron Building History
The origins of the Flatiron Building date back to 1857. That year, real estate investor Amos Eno purchased the land and a seven-story apartment building on the site. Because the apartment was three stories taller than the surrounding properties, it was a popular spot for advertisements, such as The New York Times.
After Eno's death in 1899, his assets were liquidated, and the building was put up for sale. Eventually, a 12-story building with street-level retail shops and apartments above came to be. The owners then sold the property to an investment partnership that renamed the building “The Fuller Building.”
Several years later, Harry S. Black, the CEO of the Fuller Company, wanted to rebuild. He hired one of the most influential architects of the time, Daniel Burnham, to design it. The iconic structure became the first skyscraper north of 14th Street, and locals insisted on calling it the Flatiron Building—and the name stuck.
At the time of its construction, the Flatiron Building was not as warmly received as it is today. Critics called the engineering out for its awkwardness and lack of traditional shape. Over time, though, it has become a cornerstone of the New York skyline.
Flatiron Building Influence
When Burnham designed the Flatiron Building, he drew on a diverse range of influences. The 22-story structure took much inspiration from the French and Italian Renaissance. These details are most evident in the artwork and adornments cut into the limestone base and subsequent layers of terra cotta.
The exterior of the building is heavily decorated. The combination of ornamental designs with the average-sized windows lends a sense of epic grandeur to the Flatiron Building. The façade makes it appear more substantial and robust than it is.
If you look closely, you can see Medusa heads, wreaths, and other fantastic ornamentation. The distinctive artistic style would later attract the eyes of many artists seeking to capture the romantic prowess of the structure. The unique, angled architecture also leads to unusually strong gusts of wind, which have been known to blow the dresses of women passing the building. As a result, unscrupulous men would hang around the building in hopes of a well-timed breeze and the sight of a woman's ankle. This habit led to the slang expression, "23 skidoo." Because the building is between 9th Street and 23rd Street, police would yell "23 skidoo" at ogling onlookers to get them to disperse the area.
One of the reasons why the landmark is so recognizable today is because of how frequently documented it is. It is, perhaps, the most dramatic, discussed, and photographed building of its era in New York City. That includes paintings by impressionist Childe Hassam, photographs by Edward Steichen, and countless cameos in movies in television.
Whether you want to emulate the famous postcards of women holding down their wind-blown dress or want to see a literal slice of classic Americana, make sure to check out the Flatiron Building in NYC. While it was never the tallest skyscraper, it has stood the test of time as one of the most distinctive. Located a short walk from Mid-Town Manhattan, the Flatiron Building is worth a visit for its one-of-a-kind style alone. We dare you to try and not take a picture!
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