Flatiron Building: A Three-Sided Story

PODCAST For our 8th anniversary episode, we’re revisiting one of New York City’s great treasures and a true architectural oddity — the Flatiron Building.

When they built this structure at the corner of Madison Square Park (and completed in 1902), did they realize it would be an architectural icon AND one of the most photographed buildings in New York City?

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The George A. Fuller Company, one of the most powerful construction firms in Chicago, decided to locate their new New York office building in a flashy place — a neighborhood with no skyscrapers, on a plot of land that was thin and triangular in shape. They brought in Daniel Burnham, one of America’s greatest architects, to create a one-of-a-kind, three-sided marvel, presenting a romantic silhouette and a myriad of optical illusions.

The Flatiron Building was also known for the turbulent winds which sometimes blew out its windows and tossed up the skirts of women strolling to Ladies Mile. It’s a subject of great art and a symbol of the glamorous side of Manhattan.  In this show, we bring you all sides of this structure’s incredible story.

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Below: A cleaned up look at the Flatiron Building, courtesy Shorpy. Click here for a look at the details!

Courtesy Shorpy
Courtesy Shorpy

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A dramatic illustration of 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue, where the Flatiron Building would soon stand. From here you can see the taller Cumberland building which would be used for billboards.

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The structures that pre-dated the Flatiron Building, pictured here in 1897.

Courtesy Museum of City of New York
Courtesy Museum of City of New York
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The smaller buildings have already been cleared away for the construction of the Fuller/Flatiron Building, but the taller building remains to some promotion of Heinz products.

Courtesy vintageimages.com
Courtesy vintageimages.com

Construction of the Flatiron, picture from late 1901 or early 1902.

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Courtesy Library of Congress

From every angle, the Flatiron takes on a new shape…..

Courtesy New York Public LIbrary
Courtesy New York Public LIbrary

…inspiring artists like Edward Steichen to frame the building in romantic and even mysterious ways (such as his iconic shot from 1904)

edward

A view, similar to the classic one above, of the Flatiron after a snowstorm in 1905

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

The Flatiron has inspired thousands of photo-mechanical post cards back in the day, highlighting its alluring shape-shifting form upon the changing New  York skyline.

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Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

The cigar store in the narrow ‘cowcatcher’ served as a recruitment office during World War I, topped with military weaponry.

Courtesy Library of Congress
Courtesy Library of Congress
Courtesy Library of Congress
Courtesy Library of Congress

Another postcard focused on the Flatiron’s particularly windy properties!

wind

American Mutoscope and Biography Co. filmed this humorous look at ladies in the wind on October 26, 1903:

A Max Ettlinger illustration from 1915 — Flatiron, you’re drunk!

Courtesy Museum of City of New York
Courtesy Museum of City of New York

A July 4th parade, passing up Fifth Avenue.

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

The Flatiron in 1935, from an angle that makes it appear almost two dimensional.

1935

The Flatiron — still a magnet for budding photographers everywhere! Here a couple modern images from photographers Jeffrey Zeldman, Thomas HawkGiandomenico RicciAnurag Yagnik, and eric molina.

Courtesy Jeffrey Zeldman/Flickr
Courtesy Jeffrey Zeldman/Flickr
Courtesy Jeffrey Zeldman/Flickr
Courtesy Jeffrey Zeldman/Flickr
Courtesy Thomas Hawk/flickr
Courtesy Thomas Hawk/flickr
Courtesy Giandomenico Ricci/Flickr
Courtesy Giandomenico Ricci/Flickr
Courtesy Anurag Yagnik/Flickr
Courtesy Anurag Yagnik/Flickr
Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

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CORRECTION: A small correction to this week’s show. The beautiful Madison Square Garden tower — with the nude Diana statue — is actually in a Spanish style, not an Italian style.