Originally known as the Fuller Building, the Flatiron Building was designed by Daniel Burnburn and Fredrick Dinkelberg. The Flatiron Building was once the tallest in New York City, as it rose to a height of 285 ft with 22-story. The building was constructed at a fast pace even after beginning one of the few buildings with a triangular ground plan.

Here are 10 things that you didn’t know about The Flatiron Building”:

1. Swift and rapid construction

The Flatiron Building took only a year to fully construct. This was due to the steel skeletal system since the prefabricated and pre-cut members were assembled very quickly on site. The construction started in 1901 with each floor taking only a week to construct, and by February of next year, the skeletal system was complete. It took another five months to finish the façade and the interiors.

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2. Style, influences, and public opinion

The building is faced by limestone and glazed terracotta and was designed in the Beaux-Arts style, with Italian and French Renaissance influences. The building was also supposed to feature a clock face on its façade, which was never executed. Common public opinion was not positive initially, with many critics calling it a monstrosity and a disgrace to the city, one critic even going as far as to call it a ‘stingy piece of the pie’.

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3. Burnham’s folly

It received severe criticism during its construction. Many believed that the building would fall due to its triangular shape and its height of 86.9m, which made it the second-highest building in New York. It was commonly labeled as Burnham’s Folly, named after the building’s architect, Daniel Burnham. Many also thought that the building would collapse due to the wind load, though it was designed to withstand up to four times the wind load.

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4. Windy corners

Due to its location on the intersection of Fifth Avenue and East 22nd Street, already a considerably windy section, the building created many draughts. This was popularized in culture by the term ’23 Skidoo’, reminiscent of the skirt blowing gusts created at the corner of the Flatiron building. The tiled walls of the 23rd Street subway station also have mosaics of windblown hats, an echo of these winds.

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5. No restrooms for women

On its completion, the Flatiron building did not think it would have many female users. Due to this assumption, there were no restrooms for women in the building. The management of the building had to incorporate bathrooms for women on alternating floors, by designating the bathrooms of odd-numbered floors for women and even-numbered floors for men.

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6. Triangular plot and distinctive shape

The plot that the building sits on is a right-angled triangle, rather than the popular assumption of it being an isosceles triangle. At its narrowest point, the building measures only 6.5 feet across. The distinctive shape of the building is also attributed to no setbacks from the street while designing and during construction. It covers the entire triangular plot, with slanting walls to accommodate the narrow corners, although the basement extends beyond the triangular plot, and one can even hear the subway beyond its walls.

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7. Interior vs exterior

Due to its peculiar shape, the inside is quite distinctive from the outside. The building has eccentrically designed office spaces and often weirdly shaped rooms. It also does not have a central air conditioning system, which is now being redesigned. It also has a single staircase in the case of an emergency, though the new design plans to add another. The 21st floor was also added three years after the construction was completed. The exterior of the building is in stark contrast to its plain interiors, with friezes, columns, and even gargoyles along the top floor.

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8. Slow ascent to the top

The Flatiron building’s original elevators were powered by a water hydraulic system. This caused them to be extremely slow and led to frequent flooding. It took ten minutes to reach the top floor from the ground. It even made a chief executive of a publishing company housed in the building, who was frustrated by the sluggishness of the elevators, threaten to rappel down the side of the building, in the presence of reporters.

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9. Flatiron or 175 Fifth Avenue

Officially named as 175 Fifth Avenue, the building is popularly called the Flatiron mainly due to its appearance. It is often credited as looking similar to the prow of a great ship. This name is also popular due to the resemblance of the building to a common clothes iron. Even before the building’s construction, the triangular plot it sits on was also called ‘Eno’s flatiron’, named after the owner of the plot, Amos Eno.

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10. In popular culture

The building’s basement housed a tavern which was immensely popular among New Yorkers. With a capacity of more than 1500 people, the tavern also hosted many live shows and jazz performances. The Flatiron building is an iconic symbol of the city and has featured in many films and TV shows, with the most famous being the headquarters of the Daily Bugle, the newspaper that Peter Parker aka Spiderman worked for. Lego also made a replica of the building to add it to their Landmark series.

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Ujjvala Krishna
Author

Ujjvala Krishna likes to believe that a curious mind and a constant demand for logic are the only two things necessary for a fulfilling life. A year away from graduating, she constantly strives to further her understanding of architecture, while continuing to navigate through new avenues of design.

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