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A Familiar Facade: 1909

A Familiar Facade: 1909

August 1909. "The Flat Iron Building, New York." One of Detroit Publishing's favorite subjects, making its eighth appearance here. View full size.


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What is the power source for all those streetcars? -- I don't see any overhead wires.

[The power source is underground. Note the slot between the tracks. - Dave]

Not much has changed

What I find amazing is that so many of the buildings down both Broadway and Fifth Avenue are still in existence today. I used to work in 141 Fifth Avenue (the domed building behind the Flatiron to the right)

A Little Astronomy

Given the clock that reads about 9:28, and the direction of shadows, one could estimate the day the photo was taken.


Nice to see a photo of this icon from a slightly higher perch. I wonder if it swayed like a sailboat in a really strong wind?

1908 or 1912?

I don't know which year this photo was taken in, but it was definitely taken about 15 minutes after this photo, which is dated 1912. The awnings and windows in the buildings are in identical positions in both photos, and the same trucks are parked in front of the Hotel Bartholdi.

[A good observation. Aside from the clock, people and vehicles (and the big wet street-cleaning path), the two photos are almost identical. Library of Congress gives the year of this image as a qualified "1908(?)"; the other image is part of a nine-part panorama with the date range "1910-1915"; I averaged that out as "circa 1912." Further scrutiny of each of the nine images in the panorama turned up one showing an Order of Acorns banner with the slogan "Give us Home Rule, We will do the rest" flung over Broadway -- a banner mentioned in the August 29, 1909, New York Times. So, dates of both images henceforth changed to 1909. Thank you and good night. - Dave]

Peculiar vehicle

Can anyone explain the reason behind the design of the vehicle in the center foreground? It looks like some sort of bus, designed so that customers are funneled past the driver, perhaps to facilitate payment.

[It's the rear end of a double-decker bus. Hence the spiral stairs. - Dave]

I get lost in this image

Every time I see the Flatiron Building I think about Michael explaining his love and excitement of the Flatiron to Walt. That one building inspired him and changed his life.

Like Michael told Walt, "You've gotta see it!"

I can get Lost in this image. It is a trip through time.

Must be cars around!

Or perhaps those are not oil stains on the road?

[Shorpy veterans will recognize the isolated dribbles as horse pee. - Dave]

Creepy Cordials

That huge guy at the top left serving the cordials was a little creepy...look at those eyes. I assume he was selling this....

One horse town

Someone else pointed out how quickly street scenes went from mostly horses to mostly cars over a short period. Compare this photo with the 1916 photo in Harrisburg.


Why are there so many awnings out of the windows?

[Sun hot. No AC. - Dave]

Olden Arches

Fifth Avenue, to the right of the Flatiron, ends at Eighth Street. There we have a fading glimpse of the Washington Arch and behind that, Washington Square Park. The Arch, dedicated in 1895, is really Greenwich Village's most famous landmark. The park attracts a most varied clientele including NYU students and faculty, chess players, buskers, dogs and their owners, break dancers, soapbox orators, potheads plus their vendors and that's during the daylight hours.

97 percent occupancy

It looks like most of the Flatiron is occupied with tenants due to all the awnings that are extended on the sun side. The small buildings to the left and directly behind are still standing and the building in the foreground to the right is there as well according to Google street view.

It's interesting to view how city planners allowed for those wide sidewalks during this era. Love the rare automobiles lurking about in this shot. It can't be long before they take over in NY.

All that traffic

and no honking!

Billions of blistering bollards

They are skinnier than usual, but this is the most bollards I remember seeing in a shot on Shorpy. Here they seem to function as yellow and white lines would today.

Trompe l'oeil

Until I clicked "View full size" I thought it was a winter scene with lots of beautiful snow in the foreground. But now I see they're all in summer togs. The street paving seems unnaturally even -- except that part where I guess a giant water wagon came through and made a hard right. A couple of street sweepers with tools unequal to the task seem to be following along. And the hatted horse from Philadelphia has turned up here!

Better get a move on

It's almost 9:30. Some of those folks are going to be late for work.

Beloved icon

I stood not far from there not too long ago, riveted in rapt admiration. Thrilling. The Flatiron's grace and mystique is timeless.

Pieter Brueghel the Elder

This photograph evokes a Brueghel painting.

Oh say can you see

I count 15 flagpoles in the neighborhood but only five flags, only two of which are the Stars & Stripes. Guess it's not the Fourth of July. I love this building -- even more impressive in person.

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