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Flatiron Rising: 1902

"Flatiron Building, New York." The Manhattan landmark under construction circa 1902. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

"Flatiron Building, New York." The Manhattan landmark under construction circa 1902. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Love it!

I love this building. I've visited Tor in their offices there (hi, Moshe!) and got to look out, as well as seeing the place from the outside. It's wonderful.

Is the plan to convert it into a luxury hotel still in place? How are they going to deal with the historic elevators? (This building has hydraulic column elevators, and is really too tall for them, so they require constant maintenance. Plus they're fairly old by now. But it's a historic landmark, which strongly limits what can be changed.)

[Another commenter (below) tells us the elevators have been replaced. - Dave]

An architectural tidbit

Generally speaking nowadays when buildings of this era are renovated, damaged or missing pieces of decorative masonry are replaced with fiberglass replicas. These cost much less than stone and are easier to install. The exterior of Shepard Hall at CCNY, for example, would probably blow away in a strong breeze.

A few years ago, when the Flatiron building underwent a significant cleaning, tons (literally) of the decorative stonework was discarded in favor of replicas. Friends of mine who lived nearby dug through dumpsters and collected pieces they could cart home as souvenirs.

Thanks to Team Shorpy for these excellent New York images.

Another Flatiron Fan

Like most of you, I've always loved this building. I've also had the privilege of working in it, on the 14th Floor (for Tor Books, a company I now consult for, so I'm still there periodically).

There are lots of interesting facts about it, such as that the Flatiron name predates Fuller's construction of this icon, being applied to the block itself in those days.

I first visited the building in the 70s, when I applied (unsuccessfully) for a job at St. Martin's Press, which is still there. Back then, the building still had its original painfully-slow hydraulic elevators. Those were replaced before I began working there in 2000.

What I was most surprised to learn after I began working there is that almost all photos taken of it are misleading.

That's because they're usually framed to emphasize the structure's thinness, as in the 1902 image here, or to make it look symmetrical (like an isosceles triangle), as in Seinberg's lovely color shot. (Great lighting, btw. What time of day was it?)

So what was the surprise? Its footprint (or floorplan, if you prefer) is actually a right triangle, with the long side on Broadway.

As you'd expect, the view from "the point," as occupants call it, is fabulous, looking straight uptown toward the Empire State Building, and down on Madison Square Park.

Fuller Building

The Fuller Company made sure their next HQ didn't get renamed by popular fancy: they set the name in stone over the door, and there it remains to this day.

One of these days

Gorgeous building and the longtime object of my faraway architectural dreams. It's on my so-called bucket list to see this beauty in person some day.

Water Wagon?

I wondered where all the water was coming from & then I spotted it, maybe: up the street you can see a wagon with a rounded tank and what looks like water spraying from the back. Looks deliberate, unless the wagon got up enough speed for the wheels to do that. What could it be? Dust Control?

[Poop control. See all those horses? The Department of Sanitation cleaned up after them. - Dave]

This picture shocked me

Somehow it seems like this icon has always been. To think of it as being constructed is, well, kind of freaky. What a visionary design.


As noted elsewhere, by this time most of the streetcars in New York were running on electricity, with the electric supply on almost all the lines being underground. The same plow-and-shoe system as used in Washington, D.C.

Flatiron Today

The detail on this building is really mind-boggling. Definitely my favorite building in Manhattan. Click to enlarge.

Dear George Read

I'll take footage on the 18th Floor facing north, please!


One of my favourite buildings and, speaking as a Brit, a real iconic image of New York. Stunning photo.

Times are a Changing

The lone auto is I believe a curved dash Oldsmobile. Note the tiller steering. Probably scared the horses half to death.

The facade

Is limestone and glazed terra cotta. I looked it up in Wikipedia.


Skidoo! The building that coined the phrase due to the updrafts.


Flatiron is my favorite building in Manhattan. This is a super shot.

They knew what they were doing

But I still can't understand why the stonework was interrupted between the 4th and 5th floors and continued above. One would think they'd start at the bottom and continue up. There must be a reason.

[Only the lower part of the facade is stonework. The top part is terra cotta tiles. They're still working on the bottom (limestone) section. - Dave]

Gotham Gem!

The Flatiron Building and the Chrysler Building in NYC are two of the most beautiful structures in the United States. To see them in person and to tour them is an education in itself!

George A Fuller Co.

The contractor was a major player in the field of early skyscraper construction. Fuller built many buildings that are still around today and was credited with many innovative techniques for this type of construction. The company was liquidated in the 1970s.

What powers the streetcars?

Is there voltage under that third rail? It would short out all the time in rain, so it's doubtful.

No overhead wires though.

[The underground power supply is accessed through a slot running between the tracks. There is no third rail. - Dave]


What I find fascinating about this photo is it shows the transitional nature of tall construction at the turn of the century. The steel frame here is clearly very sturdy and over-engineered, and yet they're wrapping it in brick and massive stone blocks, and not curtain-wall hung panels as would become the norm in 20 years or so.


Everyone should stand at this intersection someday: Fifth Avenue on the right; Broadway receding into the distance on the left; 22nd Street running behind the building (where the buggy sits at the corner under the "Slosson" sign); 23rd Street just below the bottom edge of the photo. Stand on the sidewalk right at the rounded (northern) corner of the building, where today there is a Sprint cell phone store, of all things, and contemplate a city street scene from a century ago, filled with horse-drawn buggies, street cars, and Victorian finery. It will take your breath away.


Applying the skin stones looks like a job for the non-timid. Those scaffolds are hung from ropes!

It's interesting to see how things were done before the invention of the tower crane. That boom on the right and the one on the roof did all the heavy lifting of stones and beams, I'm guessing.


How thin!


This is absolutely one of the best early shots of the Flatiron I have seen. The detail is amazing, and there are so many of the surrounding buildings still there today. Thanks for posting!

With my little eye

I love shots like this -- it's like "I Spy."


I think it's an amazing building. A work of art indeed!

Super Insight

An icon in the making and the photo shows what we can't see today: the skeleton of this wonderful building before the "skin" was installed! Great find! Thanks, Dave.


Note one horseless carriage lower right. Right smart fellows I reckon.

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