Posts Tagged ‘Flatiron building’

The Flatiron Building in all of its glittery glory

September 25, 2017

The only thing better than a vintage postcard of the Flatiron Building is a postcard that decorates the Flatiron in glitter—which isn’t as easy to see in this image but makes the actual postcard pop.

The building is 115 years old this year, an icon at the nexus of Fifth Avenue and Broadway is the subject of early photographs and Impressionist paintings.

It’s hard not to look at it and agree with photographer Alfred Stieglitz when he said it “appeared to be moving toward me like the bow of a monster steamer.”

The man who dove off the Flatiron Building

June 15, 2015

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

Henrilemothe1974nydn

“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]

Browsing the Flat Iron Restaurant menu, 1906

August 4, 2014

Since it opened in 1902, much has been written about the Flatiron Building, the triangular beauty that helped usher in New York’s 20th century skyscraper era.

Flatironrestaurantmenucover1906nypl

The Flat Iron Restaurant and Cafe, though, seems to be lost to the ages.

By 1906, Madison Square was no longer a desirable residential neighborhood for the city’s elite, as it had been earlier in the Gilded Age.

It was now a bustling commercial district, and that seems to be reflected in the menu offerings, which include an incredible selection of not-expensive shellfish, meats, and sandwiches.

Flatironmenu

I wonder if any contemporary city restaurant will bring back things like clear green turtle in a cup, eels in jelly, and breaded calf brains?

The rest of the four-page Flat Iron menu can be found here.

[Images: NYPL Digital Gallery]

Three different views of Lower Fifth Avenue

September 26, 2011

“Crossing Fifth Avenue at 22nd Street is a finely turned-out brougham carriage with a well-dressed driver and sleek horses,” states the caption to this 1889 photo, from New York Then and Now.

It’s a Gilded Age street: lovely cast-iron lamp posts, a towering tree on the west side of the street, and Victorian-era window shades for an air condition-less city.

Things would change drastically for this part of Lower Fifth, as the 1975 photo, also from New York Then and Now, reveals.

The New York Jockey Club building was bulldozed in 1900, replaced by the Flatiron Building. The Fifth Avenue Hotel on the left corner at 23rd Street is now a 14-story office building.

And of course, the Empire State Building, opened in 1931, towers over everything.

Today, the block looks similar to its 1975 version—but the stores are much more upscale. Lower Fifth has been transformed into a high-end shopping strip crowded with women on weekends.

Lower Fifth Avenue before the Flatiron Building

June 27, 2011

Prior to the iconic 1902 building’s opening, the land it was constructed on went by some interesting names.

In the 1850s, the triangle-shaped plot at 23rd Street, Broadway, and Fifth Avenue was known as the “cowcatcher,” possibly because cows from nearby farms often wandered into it to avoid traffic, according to The Flatiron by Alice Sparberg Alexiou.

Cows on 23rd Street? That name had to be a holdover from an even older New York.

“Cowcatcher” could also have come from the fact that the land resembled the three-sided metal device that back then was attached to the front of locomotives to prevent derailment in case livestock crossed the tracks.

In the 1880s a real rich estate developer, Amos Eno, put up a seven-story apartment house on this slice of the ultra-fashionable Madison Square neighborhood.

The cowcatcher moniker fell out of favor and the triangle was called Eno’s Flatiron—or just the Flatiron, because it looked like, well, a flat iron.

The 1902 Flatiron Building was actually officially named the Fuller Building when it opened.

But most city residents still called it the Flatiron—or more derisively “Burnham’s Folly,” after the architect whose design was not nearly as beloved 109 years ago as it is today.

[Top photo: New-York Historical Society; right: New York Public Library digital collection]

New York’s “Flat Iron and Fifth Avenue Buildings”

February 14, 2011

I like Flat Iron as two words; it doesn’t obscure the origin of the building’s name.

Aside from the streetcars navigating Broadway, the best part of the postcard is the caption on the back: “Facing Madison Square, these two buildings are among the most interesting in the uptown district.”

Uptown for 1905, I guess.

In the center is the still-standing, seven-story Western Union Building, by late 19th century starchitect Henry Hardenburgh.

And look—no Shake Shack!

Broadway and East 10th Street: 1911 vs. 2011

November 21, 2010

“Here Broadway approaches Union Square from the south, with what is probably the midday crowd on its wide sidewalks,” states the caption of this photo, published in a fascinating book of photos, New York Then and Now.

Sure, the businesses lining this stretch of the city’s longest street have changed in 100 years; see the signs on the left for a few furriers.

The hotel on the left is the fashionable St. Denis, built in 1852 by James Renwick, better known as the architect who designed Grace Church, at right, in the 1840s. (He was also behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral.)

Broadway teems with trolleys going in both ways. It’s like a game of Frogger. No wonder pedestrians were always dodging them—not always with success.

The same view exactly a century later shows that this corner is still prime real estate, and many of the buildings survive, with nail salons, delis, restaurants, and boutiques renting space.

Too bad you can no longer see the Flatiron Building from this vantage point.

The faces on the Flatiron Building

August 5, 2009

FlatironbuildingpostcardThe Flatiron Building is so striking and unusual, it’s easy to get caught up gazing at the overall shape and design and not notice that near the top of its 22 floors are some rather unfriendly faces.

These grotesques, like this one below, have been staring pedestrians down since 1902, when the Flatiron Building—originally called the Fuller Building—opened. It was New York’s first skyscraper and its tallest for years.

Though not an immediate architectural hit, its cultural impact was established fast. Artists photographed and painted the building, and writers referenced its beauty.

In 1906, H.G. Wells wrote: “I found myself agape, admiring a skyscraper—the prow of the Flatiron Building, to be particular, ploughing up through the traffic of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in the late-afternoon light.”

Faceonflatiron

Fun fact: The term “flatiron” was used before the building was ever conceived; it’s what locals called the iron-shaped triangular plot at Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 22nd, and 23rd Streets upon which the building was eventually constructed.

Twilight falls over the Flatiron

October 31, 2008

Luxembourg-born American artist Edward Steichen added color to his 1904 photograph of the Flatiron Building, casting it in a moody, blueish glow.   

Completed in 1902, the Flatiron Building is considered one of New York’s first skyscrapers . . . even though it’s only 22 stories high.

The Flatiron’s second most striking building

September 26, 2008

Sure the Flatiron building across the street gets all the attention. But on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street stands a lovely, 7-story red brick structure with Western Union’s old logo obscured under the windows.

This was Western Union’s “uptown” branch. Built in 1883 by architect Henry Hardenburgh—designer of the Plaza, the Dakota, and other gorgeous New York buildings—the office had pneumatic tubes that whisked telegraphs to Western Union’s main headquarters in lower Manhattan. 

It’s now a New York Historical Designation that has recently been condo-ized. For more photos and information on this gabled, Queen Anne gem, check out the architectural site  Starts and Fits