History of the Flatiron Building in 60 Seconds

Photo of Lily Niu
25 May 2017

Formally known as the Fuller Building, the Flatiron Building in New York City is noted for its triangular shape, making it a distinctive architectural landmark across the Manhattan skyline. As one of the city’s most well-known historical buildings, visitors flock to the site not only to take in the building from up-close but to visit the Flatiron Prow Art Space where regular installations take place.

While the Flatiron Building has never been one of New York City’s tallest, it still offers incredible views of Manhattan. At 21-storeys tall, the top floor wasn’t added until three years after its completion in 1902. Designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, the building was initially intended to serve as offices for Chicago contracting firm the George A. Fuller Company. Other famous landmarks spearheaded by Burnham include the Union Station in Chicago and Union Station in Washington D.C.

When construction first began, the Flatiron Building gained notoriety among locals who were convinced its triangular shape and tall height would cause it to collapse. They subsequently dubbed the structure “Burnham’s Folly.”

The limestone base covering the building’s steel frame switches to terra-cotta further upward, featuring a tiled facade also adorned with gargoyles, fleur-de-lis, and eagles which are design influences from the French and Italian Renaissance.

One particular quirk of the Flatiron Building is when it first opened, only men’s restrooms were available. However, management later assigned restrooms for women on alternating floors- this pattern remains until this day.

Named a New York City landmark in 1966, the Flatiron Building later earned its place as a national historic landmark in 1989.

Those keen on snapping a selfie with the Flatiron Building in the background can park themselves on a bench across the road in Madison Square Park. A picture with this celebrated skyscraper is the perfect memento for any visitor to New York City!

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