The Flatiron Building is located at 175 5th Avenue in Manhattan at the intersection of this street with Broadway. Daniel Burnham of Chicago was the architect who designed the building to fit in a wedge-shaped piece of property. D.H. Burnham and Company was a well-known Chicago firm, who specialized in neoclassical architecture.
In the early twentieth century, the nickname of this building was Burnham’s Folly because of a belief that given high enough winds it would fall down. Although the official name was the Fuller Building, local New York residents started calling it “the cowcatcher” or “the flatiron” because of its unique shape.
Structural Details and Exterior
George Fuller founded the company that constructed the Flatiron building, but due to his death in December 1900, his son-in-law Harry St. Francis Black oversaw the actual construction. Black was said to be more comfortable with “L-beams, stresses, and blueprints” than with fashionable society.
The framework of the Flatiron Building incorporated a steel skeleton that allowed the building to rise to a height of 285 feet. Twenty stories above ground were completed in 1902. A 21st story was constructed in 1905. The narrow end of the building is only a little over 6 feet wide.
The exterior of the Flatiron building has limestone and a terra-cotta glaze. The design has elements of the Italian Renaissance including Greek faces and terra-cotta flowers.
History of the Flatiron Building
The original goal of the developers was to establish a commercial and financial district north of Wall Street. This idea was speculative and was not very successful. Although it did not become a financial building, the Flatiron Building and area surrounding it became popular with photographers. Many New York City photography shops settled in this area.
In the 1980’s, a variety of advertising agencies moved in. Currently, the building has a few shops and many offices for Macmillan Publishing. Peter Parker in Spider-Man works as a freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle, which in the movie is located in the Flatiron Building.
Due to the Flatiron Building’s shape, wind currents by it are strong. Stories are told about young men in the early twentieth century, who would gather to see women’s skirts blowing up, revealing their ankles. The police would tell the men to scram or “23 Skidoo.”
In 1979, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1989 became a National Historic Landmark. This building is in the Flatiron District, which also has a National Historic Site: the birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt.
In 2009, the Italy-based Sorgente Holdings, a real estate investment firm, gained the majority assets in owning the Flatiron Building. Their long-term strategy is to convert the structure into a high-end hotel. Since many of the current leases will not expire for ten years, this is a long-term project.
The wedge-shaped, original skyscraper known as the Flatiron Building has become an iconic symbol for New York City. The purpose of the building has changed and will continue to evolve in the 21st century.