When Daniel Burnham’s design for the George A. Fuller company’s office building was completed in 1902, it was named after Fuller himself, the Fuller building. But much like 56 Leonard today has come to be known as the Jenga building, New Yorkers gave this building a name of their own, the Flatiron building, because of its similarity to the household appliance, a flat iron. With the intersection of Broadway and 5th Avenue forming a triangle, there was no room for a traditionally shaped building if the developer wanted to use all of the real estate available. Instead, this plot of land, (which had always been known as the Flatiron) suggested that this, and many other buildings made at intersections would come to look like.
Visiting the Flatiron Building
The Flatiron building is located at the intersection of Broadway and 5th avenue on 23rd street. The closest subway stations are the N/Q/R/W at 23rd Street Station in Madison Square Park, right in front of the building. You can also take the 6 train to 23rd Street just to the east of the building. Lastly, you can take the F or M to 23rd Street, however the exit is on 6th Avenue and so you will have to walk one long crosstown block to 5th Avenue.
TIP: Located inside Madison Square Park is the original Shake Shack location, where some say are the absolute best hamburgers in town.
Unfortunately, the observation deck on top of the Flatiron building is now closed, and there are no current businesses that take in guests. This will all change at the turn of the decade however when Sorgente Group converts the building into a hotel. If you are looking for good skyscraper views in NYC check out our post on the top ten skyscrapers to visit in NYC. To find out about the other three observation desk in New York City take a look at: Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, or One World Trade Center Observatory?
Best locations to photograph the Flatiron Building
If you want to get a good photo of the Flatiron building that captures all of its architectural design, your best chance is to crouch down at the southern end of “Flatiron Plaza” just north of the building to get the view that shows both 5th avenue and Broadway sides of the building. Of course, being unobstructed and only 11 blocks away from the Empire State Building makes the observation deck a great choice for snapping the old flatiron.
Tours of the Flatiron District
We offer a Flatiron District Self-Guided Tour and you can see the Flatiron District on our Midtown Manhattan Night Tour. There are multiple bus companies that travel to the Flatiron Building, including all the major hop-on, hop-off companies, such as Big Bus Tours and City Sightseeing Tours, each with a stop at or next to the Flatiron Building.
Be sure to read our post on choosing the best bus tour for you.
Burnham’s folly was one of the first nicknames given to the building, since many assumed it would collapse from all of the wind pressure hitting the building. This was never to be the case, as Burnham designed it four times stronger than necessary to survive all of the wind currents. The building is 22 stories tall (305 feet/93 meters).
Originally intended to be a 19 story building, three floors were added 2 years after its completion. One of these floors has chest level windows. Great views for all the tenants, so long as they’re standing up. Anyone that wishes to reach these floors must take the elevator to the 19th floor and switch to get to the 22nd.
The Flatiron Building never held the title of tallest under any notable circumstances, but in its over 100 years of existence, it has been one of the most admired and photographed buildings in all of New York City, representing to many ship sailing towards the future of Manhattan’s Midtown.
Fact or Fiction: The origin of the expression 23 Skidoo !
Because of the buildings shape, wind gusts were extremely heavy going around the building. This would cause the wind to uplift young ladies skirts, exposing their ankles, making 23rd in between Broadway and 5th a very popular hangout for young men. Police men walking by were known to yell out “23 skidoo” to chase away any that were loitering for too long.
The Flatiron Building today
The statues at the top are not part of the original design. In 1988, the original statues began to break and were torn down. The two cherubs now located at the top now were installed in 2001. In 2010, At the very top, near the northern point was placed a black humanoid statue called the Gormley, named after Antony Gormley who placed statues of himself throughout Madison Square Park and the surrounding architecture in 2010, calling his work “Event Horizon.”
In early 2009, the Flatiron building was bought out by the Italian real estate investment firm Sorgente Group, who plans to transform the building into a luxury hotel. However, the firm must wait until around 2019 for the building to become fully vacated after the current leases expire. When that happens, access to the Flatiron building will become possible, and tourists who pay the price will be able to take in the views of Madison Square Park offered by the Flatiron Building. Until then, tourists can visit Sprint on the first floor and appreciate the artwork on display in the prow art space at the front of the building sponsored by Sprint, who rotates different pieces of art throughout the years.