Against the backdrop of New York’s historic district stands a distinctive triangular building. Today, the Flatiron is an inseparable part of the city, yet when it opened in 1902 few would have thought so. The developers have initially named their masterpiece the Fuller Building, to honor George Fuller, an architect considered to be the father of skyscrapers. The new-yorkers, however, kept calling it “flat iron”, for the resemblance to a triangle-shaped clothes iron. The name stuck and eventually became official.
It may be hard to believe it today but for some time Flatiron was the tallest building in New York. The engineering behind the peculiar shape was revolutionary – the architects have used a thick metal skeleton that in turn was able to support the elegant walls. So radically different was the design from anything built before that many couldn’t believe it was really possible. People were afraid to step near the building, fearing that a gust a wind would topple it over.
Critics have also lashed out at the construction, calling it a stingy piece of pie, unfit for the center of New York. The NYT newspaper called the building a “monstrosity”. Some though were excited about the fresh new wave in the city’s looks. The science fiction writer H.G. Wells has famously admired the skyscraper. Perhaps, when he looked at Flatiron, he was able to get a glimpse of today’s megacities with their glimmering futuristic skylines, just like he imagined while writing his books.
Enjoyed this story? Here are a few recommendations you might find useful:
- The Flatiron book. The New York Landmark and the Incomparable City That Arose with It
- Magnetic City: A Walking Companion to New York. Planning to explore New York yourself? Going for a long walk is one of the best ways to do it!
- Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City. Lively and comprehensive, the book brings to life New York’s fascinating past.