Architect: Daniel H. Burnham Developer, Structural
Engineer, MEP Engineer, General Contractor, Original Owner & Tenant:
George A. Fuller Construction Co.
The Flatiron Building, also called the Fuller Building, stands at 175 Fifth Avenue, at the intersection of 23rd Street, Fifth Avenue and Broadway. The client was Fuller Construction Co., who also built the 22-story, steel-framed triangular shaped building clad in limestone and terra-cotta. The eclectic decoration borrows form Greek, Gothic and Renaissance traditions. It is often mistakenly described as of the first skyscrapers or first steel-framed buildings. It is more aptly described as one of the first Chicago-style tall buildings in Manhattan with its unbroken, columnar block with a distinct base, shaft and capital instead of the more traditional New York-style skyscraper which features a tower rising above the building. The Flat Iron Building is 285 feet tall, but the rounded corner, like the prow of a ship featured in this view, is only 6 feet wide. When it was under construction it was nicknamed "Burnham's Folly" since its triangular shape was considered unsafe. Gawkers used to dawdle in front of the building to watch as the drafts created by the building lifted women's skirts as they passed. This is said to be the origin of the phrase "23 Skidoo" which police officers would shout out to disperse the gawkers. The entrances to the Flat Iron are in the middle of the long facades which houses retail space and elevator banks. When it opened, the building had an electric generator to provide its own electricity and heating and an early type of hydraulic elevator. There were no designated ladies' rooms since the restrooms of alternate floors were assigned to opposite sexes. On the left is Broadway and Fifth Avenue is on the right in this view. Behind the Flat Iron on the right is the dome of the Merchants Bank of New York, 141 Fifth Avenue (Robert Maynicke, 1897) at the southeast corner of 21st Street. Barely visible to the extreme right is the tower of Sohmer Building at 170 Fifth Avenue (Robert Maynicke, 1898) on the northwest corner of 22nd Street is seen behind it. Although they are rather short, both the Sohmer Building and the Merchants Bank are typical of the New York-style tall building.