The Flatiron Building

By Nicole Redona

New York City is home to the Flatiron District, a very attractive part of the city that hosts an array of shops and restaurants. This area is most notable for the famous Flatiron Building located at 175 Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, which over time has become a rather iconic building of New York City. The Flatiron Building was built in 1902 and designed by Chicago architect, Daniel Burnham. Although the building is popular now, at one time it was believed that the building would physically fall apart due to the way it was structured.

During its early years, the building was nicknamed “Burham’s Folly” (after the architect) because of the skepticism the building faced from the public; they thought the building would topple over since it was designed with a triangular shape and with so many stories. When the building first opened, it stood at an impressive twenty-two stories tall. The triangular build, with the skinnier end of the building being actually only six feet wide, was unusual for its time and did not provide much confidence to the public. There were many who believed that the building would not last upright, and fall over. However, architects had designed the building with a steel skeleton, with limestone overlay that changes into terra-cotta as the floors go up. This new concept of the steel skeleton was introduced in order to maintain the building’s design; to prevent the necessity of increasing the thickness of the walls as the building went higher.

We have come to know this building by the name the locals used to describe it -“the flatiron” -owing to its triangular shape resembling a flatiron for clothes—ironically, the Flatiron building is not an isosceles triangle like a real flatiron as it would seem at first glance, but a right triangle. The nickname, has still stuck until today, instead of alluding to its Pythagorean influence.