You’ll probably know the Flatiron Building even before you see it, thanks to the famous photos of the building taken by Alfred Stieglitz, who snapped it numerous times, calling the Fuller Building (its original name) “a picture of new America still in the making.” Many consider it the first skyscraper in New York; it certainly was one of the first to use a steel frame, the classic skyscraper structure.
Its unusual triangular shape was architect Daniel Burnham’s solution to a space problem: The building rests on the bow-tie intersection where Broadway and Fifth Avenue cross each other. In order to produce a decent amount of rentable space, he built it to a towering 375 feet on every sliver of land he had available to him. The apex is just 6 feet across at its narrowest point.
When it was first erected in 1902, crowds used to gather in Madison Square Park across the street to wait for it to fall down! Later men were drawn here by the urban myth that the building’s shape caused strange wind patterns that were effective in blowing up women’s skirts. The cops who dispersed these groups of gaping men on 23rd Street would call out “23 skidoo!” and so a slang term was born. One of the most beloved buildings in the city, it has been compared to a mighty ship sailing up Fifth Avenue.
- Pauline Frommer