Flatiron Building

Flatiron Building – Discover the Flatiron Skyscraper in New York

The Flatiron skyscraper in New York City is a building in the Flatiron District with a triangular shape. This article will answer all your questions about the Flatiron Building. You’ll learn about the Flatiron Building’s height, the Flatiron Building’s history, some additional Flatiron Building facts and, of course: what is the Flatiron Building used for in the first place? 



A Look at the Flatiron Building

ArchitectsDaniel Burnham (1846 – 1912) and Frederick P. Dinkelberg (1858 – 1935)
Date Constructed1902
FunctionOffice rental space
LocationNew York City, New York, United States

The Flatiron skyscraper is a peculiar New York City structure known for its triangular design. Originally named the Fuller Building, it was situated at the Fifth Avenue, Broadway, and East 22nd Street intersection. This three-street intersection led to the triangular-shaped property that would necessitate the building’s strange right-angle design, a design that would go on to lead the Flatiron skyscraper to become a famous sight in New York City.

The triangular shape is actually what led to the name of the building in the first place. There have always been rumors that the building took its name because it looks like a household iron that is used to straighten clothes. In other words, a “flat iron.”

Flatiron SkyscraperThe exterior of the Flatiron building in 2008; Jazz Guy from New Jersey, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

However, it was actually the property that was called that long before the building itself was ever erected, and the name just stuck. The original owners of the building were rather irritated by the fact that people kept calling it the Flatiron Building even though it was still technically called the Fuller Building. This led to the Fuller Company eventually just naming another building the Fuller Building and leaving this one to be the Flatiron Building. When people keep calling it one thing, it’s easier to change it than trying to change their minds!


Flatiron Building’s Height

The Flatiron Building was originally designed to have 20 stories, but there were eventually some additions that were made to the base structure, and it was elevated to 22 stories instead. This means that at its present height, the Flatiron skyscraper sits at 87 m (or 285 ft). It should be immediately clear to anyone with a particular interest in tall buildings, that this means the Flatiron Building is actually not all that tall.

The Flatiron Building in New York City was never the tallest in the world, the country, or even the city. At the time of its construction, it was the tallest building in the general area it was built, but it was not the tallest in the city itself.

Flatiron Building HeightA series of images chronicling the construction of the Flatiron building, from the New York Times photo archive (1901 – 1902); Credited to the Library of Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Instead, it was known and beloved by many because of its triangular design. It was a unique-looking building that distinguished itself, not because of its height but because of its shape. The skyscraper is made of differing sections. The first three stories are cast in limestone, and the ground level features a “cowcatcher” retail space in glass. It was called the “cowcatcher” because of its apparent resemblance to a cowcatcher on a train, but that name, understandably, never caught on as it is a rather abstract one.

The upper floors of the building were designed using glazed terracotta with a steel base. The whole design was reminiscent of French and Italian Renaissance influences.


What Is the Flatiron Building Used For?

The Flatiron Building was originally meant to serve as two things: the headquarters for the Fuller Company on the highest floors and office rental space for the rest of the building. The Fuller Company was also, ironically, a construction company that handled practically all aspects of the building process aside from design.

This is doubly ironic because the Fuller Company is named after George A. Fuller, an architect.

Flatiron Building FactsA view of the Flatiron building (2008); paveita, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Fuller Company would ultimately take the 19th floor as its headquarters and the remainder of the office space was used for its intended purpose as rented office space. However, while the Flatiron Building was always intended as private office space, it did become a favorite site for photography because of its strange design. So, while that may not be an intended use for the building, it certainly was a persistent use for the building.



The Flatiron Building’s History

The property on which the Flatiron Building was constructed was a mostly undeveloped piece of land owned for decades by Amos Eno. He refused to ever sell it, but after he died, it was ultimately sold off and bought by the Cumberland Realty Company. This company was an investment partnership that had been created by the CEO of the Fuller Company, Harry S. Black. He wanted to build a new headquarters for the Fuller Company on that triangular plot of land.


Who Designed the Flatiron Building?

Black went on to hire Daniel Burnham’s company to design the building, and it was designed in 1901 by Daniel Burnham and Frederick P. Dinkelberg. The building was immediately set to be a bit of a strange one because of its triangular design, and while it was not the first triangular building ever built, it was the tallest of its time. This produced a few concerns as a triangular structure is less stable than a good old-fashioned square or rectangular one. However, construction went ahead and the building was completed by August 1902.

It was immediately named the Fuller Building and the Fuller Company quickly moved in. However, everyone kept calling it the Flatiron Building because the property had been called that for years.

What Is the Flatiron Building Used ForA close-up view of the front of the Flatiron building (2019); Tilman von Meltzer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

So, they eventually just renamed it rather than keep pestering people about the supposedly correct name. The Fuller Company grew so it added an extra floor and the small “cowcatcher” retail space already mentioned above. However, none of this was meant to last as the issues soon began. The Flatiron Building would now forever change hands.


Who Owned the Flatiron Building?

In 1925, the Flatiron Building was first sold to a syndicate that was run by Lewis Rosenbaum. Over time, many companies that had office space there left and were replaced, but they weren’t replaced quickly enough. Then the Great Depression happened and that didn’t help matters. In 1933, the Equitable Life Assurance Society took control of the building because the previous owner didn’t pay its mortgage. This new owner renovated the building, and, by the mid-1940s, it was entirely rented out again. It was even home to Baseball Magazine during this time.

Flatiron Skyscraper in New YorkA photograph of the Flatiron building in New York (1909); See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1945, the Flatiron Building was sold to another syndicate. This one was run by Max Silverstein and ultimately managed by Helmsley-Spear. This company used a tenancy-in-common structure that made it difficult for anything to be agreed upon. This led to repairs never being done so the building eventually deteriorated. In 1997, Newmark & Company replaced Helmsley-Spear as the manager and started on improvements.

One such improvement was the replacement of the hydraulic elevators that the building had with electric ones. This means that the Flatiron Building had water-based elevators that would often flood until only 25 years ago!


What’s Happening with the Flatiron Building Now?

For many years, Macmillan, the publishing company, held a majority occupancy in the Flatiron Building, but that came to an end in 2019 as it moved to the Equitable Building. Ever since Macmillan left, the co-owners have been in a dispute with one another, and the building has been in a state of renovation ever since.

Where Is the Flatiron BuildingThe Flatiron Building in New York City (2019); Kevin Halloran, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The new situation means that the Flatiron Building, an iconic structure in New York City and a bona fide tourist attraction despite its being commercial office space, has remained empty for the last few years. That will likely change in the coming months and years, but for now, that’s all there is to say. However, you’ll find a few extra Flatiron Building facts to tide you over below.



Some More Flatiron Building Facts

  • George A. Fuller, the man after whom the building was originally named, was once a famed architect. He was considered to be the inventor of the skyscraper and also the inventor of the modern contractor system used in construction.
  • During construction, a retired colonel refused to move. This man was named Winfield Scott Proskey, and he simply refused to budge until his lease expired. He remained in his home while every building was demolished around him. Sadly, he was eventually forced out once they discovered that he was bankrupt.
  • The “cowcatcher” retail space was used in the war effort. During World War One, the space was used by the United States Navy as a recruiting center. In addition, the military set up stands right outside the building to sell Liberty Bonds, a type of war bond.


The Flatiron Building was never the tallest thing in the world, but it has always been an interesting sight to behold. It has a triangular shape and, despite its eternal use as private office space, it has been a tourist destination for many who enjoy architecture in the city. Those who enjoy it from the outside have also, thankfully, never needed to be involved in the internal politics that has persisted throughout the building’s existence.




Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Flatiron Building’s Height?

The Flatiron Building stands at 87 m (or 285 ft) and has 22 stories. This means that it was never the tallest building in New York City or anywhere else. However, it did receive a lot of attention because of its shape.


Why Is the Flatiron Building Triangular?

The Flatiron skyscraper in New York City has a triangular flat iron shape because of the shape of the property it was built on. This triangular property had that shape because it was caused by the intersection of three streets.


What Is the Flatiron Building Used For?

The Flatiron Building was always intended as office space. The Fuller Company, which designed the building as a headquarters, has since moved out. The building has instead been used by other businesses, but it currently stands empty as it waits for renovations to en, that were projected to be done by 2022.


Cite this Article

Justin, van Huyssteen, “Flatiron Building – Discover the Flatiron Skyscraper in New York.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. April 18, 2023. URL: https://artfilemagazine.com/flatiron-building/

van Huyssteen, J. (2023, 18 April). Flatiron Building – Discover the Flatiron Skyscraper in New York. artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. https://artfilemagazine.com/flatiron-building/

van Huyssteen, Justin. “Flatiron Building – Discover the Flatiron Skyscraper in New York.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source, April 18, 2023. https://artfilemagazine.com/flatiron-building/.

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