The man who dove off the Flatiron Building

Henri LaMothe was a showman by trade. Born in Chicago, he first made a living dancing the Charleston.


“Then came the Depression, when jobs weren’t so easy to find,” LaMothe said in 1977, “and I started diving into the water for a living.”

LaMothe came up with a signature diving stunt he ended up doing thousands of times around the country: from a height of 40 feet, he’d do his “flying squirrel” dive into a pool filled with four feet of water.

HenrilemothedivemcnyIn 1952, he decided to celebrate his birthday by climbing 40 feet up the Flatiron Building and diving into a 4-foot pool on the sidewalk.

He repeated the birthday stunt for 20 years, decreasing the water in the pool every year. By 1974, at age 70, he was down to about a foot of water, states The New York Times.

How did he not crack open his skull?

“When I’m on the platform I go through yoga, stretching and limbering exercises,” he told a newspaper. “Then I wipe out all thoughts and concentrate on the circle and sense my aim, which is what zen is.”

LaMothe discontinued his yearly Flatiron birthday dive after 1974 but continued diving around the country until his death in 1987.

If a man like LaMothe tried that stunt in today’s New York, his arrest would be all over social media before he had time to dry himself off on 23rd Street!

[Top: New York Daily News; Bottom: Museum of the City of New York]

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6 Responses to “The man who dove off the Flatiron Building”

  1. shop Says:

    Reblogged this on Espiou Magazine.

  2. squarepi Says:

    Looks like the pictured jump was from 1974 and the photos came from the NY Daily News.

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Yes, thank you!

  4. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    Henri LaMothe made a splash in both the wee pool as well as the big newspapers! He doesn’t have the graceful form of the famed diving horse(s) from the Steel Pier in Atlantic City! (Looks like a ‘belly-flop’ to moi!) A friend of mine met ‘Sonora’ – the blind woman who rode the equine(s) as it / they jumped or fell or were prodded off the diving platform. The popular act (look for the old linen postcards of the scene – amazing stuff) lasted many decades; Amazingly, just a handful of years back, someone tried to revive it. The Humane Society got LOUD about the horse and they got an official: ‘WHOA!’ I guess the Red Cross should have yelped about Henri before he could have possibly gone kersplat!

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