10. The Flatiron Building Was Built Incredibly Fast

Once the foundation was set during construction, the floors went up at a rate of one floor per week. And once the steel frame was done, it only took four months to finish the building, which was completed in June 1902, with the building opening in November that year.

New Yorkers were relatively unfamiliar with steel cage construction when the Flatiron was built. The thinness of the building also added to the public’s trepidation, and there was a fear that the building could topple over. In response, the building was over-engineered, says Sonny. As proof, Sonny recounts RCN’s experience trying to bring cable into the building. They started with a 14-foot bit, drilling from the outside of the foundation, followed by 16-foot bit, but it never broke through. Finally, a 20-foot bit made it through and the RCN engineer said it was the widest foundation he had ever seen on a building.

Although architectural critics were clearly horrified by the design, the public almost instantly fell in love – along with the modern artists  and photographers of the time. Architectural Record thought it was awkward, and criticized the large number of windows. The New York Times called it a “monstrosity,” The New York Tribune describing it as a “stingy piece of pie,” the Municipal Journal & Public Works called it “New York’s latest freak in the shape of sky scrapers” and the Municipal Art Society went as far to say it was “unfit to be in the Center of the City.”

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9 Responses
  1. Be Allthere Reply

    ..You state that, ‘…architect George A. Fuller, who was called “the father of the skyscraper.”
    ..Umm, no, he was not called that. Louis Sullivan is called the father of skyscrapers, ref(Kaufman, Mervyn D. (1969). Father of Skyscrapers: A Biography of Louis Sullivan. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.)
    ..Fuller was the creator of the system to which we now refer as general contracting.

  2. I was looking for more than one fact believe it or not. I’m trying to learn about important parts of the Flatiron Building. I was trying to find what the skeleton of the original was made of.

    • KRIS SPECHT Reply

      So click on the button for the next fact? There are lots of fun facts including facts about the structure and construction materials.

  3. James W Smith Reply

    I could kick myself for never stopping and actually appreciating the building. My first apartment in 1975 was on 21st and 3rd Ave and I would walk past this incredible building on a regular basis. I would look up and remark to myself how cool it looked- a true monument to architecture, but never thought about going in. Maybe access was possible back then. Why is it unoccupied now and why no tours? Is it a safety issue? On my next visit back to the city- I’m going to walk up and actually touch the building, walk around it and appreciate that it will still be standing decades from now. Thank you for your research and sharing it with us.

  4. A great article on the Flatiron Building, but “23 Skidoo” does NOT come from the wind on 23rd Street. The slang term “23” existed in 1899–before the building even opened. I have documented this and my work has been available for about 20 years…The building was also called “Burnham’s Folly”…There are NYC buildings called the Little Flatiron Building (Herring Lock and Safe Company Building on Hudson Street) and the Waffle Iron (432 Park Avenue).

    • Jessica Katz Reply

      Actually “23 Skidoo” is specifically for 23rd and the Flatiron. Yes, the slang terms “twenty-three” and “skidoo” existed prior to the building, however both of those terms were used independently and separately. In came the Flatiron and now “23 Skidoo” came to be and which became a popular phrase in 1906.

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