The Hidden History of the Flatiron Building

flatiron building

Since 1902, the Flatiron Building has stood as one of New York City’s most iconic and celebrated skyscrapers. Known for its unique, triangular design, the building was once one of the tallest in the entire world when it was completed. Though long since overshadowed by taller, more modern skyscrapers, the Flatiron Building remains a favorite of New Yorkers and visitors alike. But how much do you really know about this famed tower? Here’s a quick look at the hidden history of the Flatiron Building.

The site of the building once housed a hotel and later a residential building in the 19th century. Back in 1899, entrepreneur Harry S. Black, the CEO of the Fuller Company, purchased the building’s lot with the intent of constructing a new tower there to serve as a corporate headquarters. The Fuller Company today is commonly seen as the first real general contractor to deal with all of the aspects of building construction, making them trailblazers in the world of skyscraper construction. To build the new tower, Black turned to renowned Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, marking his first commission in New York City.

Working within the triangular lot, Burnham designed a revolutionary building that blended Neo-Renaissance and Beaux Arts architecture with steel-framed engineering. His design drew from the Chicago School of architecture, breaking with the dominant New York-style that often featured tapering towers rising from a blocky mass at the bottom. Construction proceeded quickly on the new building, with the tower being completed in June 1902 after just a year of construction.

The new building, initially known as the Fuller Building, was quickly embraced by the public and became a New York City icon, its triangular shape setting it apart from most other towers in the city. First owned by the Fuller Company, it was sold to the U.S. Realty Company in 1925 before passing along ownership to several other firms. It was officially declared a New York City landmark in 1966 and named a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

Today, more than a century after its completion, the famed Flatiron Building remains one of the most iconic in New York City. Though far from being one of the tallest in the city, it still remains one of the most unique and celebrated.