THE FLATIRON BUILDING
175 Fifth Avenue, New York
The Flatiron Building is often said to have gotten its name from its similarity to a household appliance, however, it was the triangular region contained by Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 22nd and 23rd Streets that had in fact been known as the “Flat Iron” prior to the building’s construction. The brothers Samuel and Mott Newhouse, who made their fortune in the mines of the West, bought the property in 1899. In 1901, the Newhouses joined a syndicate led by Harry S. Black, head of the George A. Fuller Company, and filed plans to build a 20-story building on the triangular plot.
At 22 stories and 307 feet, the distinctive triangular shape of the Flatiron Building allowed it to fill the wedge-shaped property located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway.
Early critics referred to it as “Burnham’s Folly,” claiming that the combination of triangular shape and height would cause the building to fall down. Newspaper reports at the time focused on the potentially dangerous wind-tunnel effect created by the triangular building at the intersection of two big streets.
The building was highly criticized at the time. Architectural Record declared it as awkward and criticized the large number of windows. The New York Times called it "a monstrosity". The New York Tribune labeled it "a stingy piece of pie". The Municipal Journal of Public Work dubbed it "New York's latest freak in the shape of sky scrapers" and the Municipal Art Society declared that it was "unfit to be in the center of the city".
Most who have resided or worked near the building can attest to the downdraft effect which causes the wind to increase in speed at the foot of the Building. After its completion, it was well known as the place where the wind would lift the ladies skirts, exposing their ankles and delighting the young men. The expression "23 Skidoo" popularized in the early 1900's, meaning to leave quickly or be forced to leave quickly by someone else, originated from the constables hustling along the young gentlemen who were gathered around the Flatiron Building to watch the ladies' skirts blow up.
And to add insult to injury, the building's designers failed to include ladies restrooms in the original design. Management had to adjust and designate bathrooms on alternate floors for men and women to compensate for the oversight.
Appearing in countless TV, film and postcards, prints and iconography, the Flatiron is most notably seen in Spider Man as the headquarters of the Daily Bugle, for which Peter Parker is a freelance photographer.