Jonathan Cohen

Jonathan Cohen

Posted on 06/18/2015


Photo taken on April 28, 2014



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streetscape
Flatiron Building
22nd Street
Broadway
New York City
New York
United States
USA
cityscape
NoMad neighborhood


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The Crown of the Flatiron – Broadway at 22nd Street, New York, New York

The Crown of the Flatiron – Broadway at 22nd Street, New York, New York
Not well known among out-of-towners who are not into historic architecture, the Flatiron Building is a favorite of New Yorkers and admirers around the world. Perhaps because it symbolizes so much of how New Yorkers see themselves: defiant, bold, sophisticated, and interesting – with just enough embedded grime and soot to highlight its details.

The Flatiron Building was designed by Chicago’s Daniel Burnham as a vertical Renaissance palazzo with Beaux-Arts styling. Unlike New York’s early skyscrapers, which took the form of towers arising from a lower, blockier mass, such as the contemporary Singer Building (1902–1908), the Flatiron Building epitomizes the Chicago school conception: like a classical Greek column, its facade – limestone at the bottom changing to glazed terra-cotta from the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company in Tottenville, Staten Island as the floors rise – is divided into a base, shaft and capital.

The Flatiron’s most interesting feature is its shape – a slender hull plowing up the streets of commerce as the bow off a great ocean liner plows through the waves of its domain. The apex of the building is just six feet wide, and expands into a limestone wedge adorned with Gothic and Renaissance details of Greek faces and terra cotta flowers. The building has two claims to fame – one architectural, the other cultural. Some consider the Flatiron Building to be New York City’s first skyscraper. It certainly was one of the first buildings in the city to employ a steel frame to hold up its 285-foot tall facade, but not the first. Some felt its shape (like a flatiron) was less artistic and more dangerous. They thought it would fall over, and during construction the Flatiron Building was nicknamed "Burnham’s Folly."

The building’s cultural legacy is a little more interesting and has passed into the local social consciousness as a fable. It is said that the building created unusual eddies in the wind which would cause women’s skirts to fly around as they walked on 23rd street. This attracted throngs of young men who gathered to view the barelegged spectacle. Police would try to disperse these knots of heavy-breathers by calling to them, "23 Skidoo." This phrase has passed out of common usage, but its descendant, the word "scram" remains in a back corner of the American lexicon.

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