I specify "in Manhattan," because in America there are at least a dozen flatiron buildings. There is one in Georgia, one in Chicago, one in Texas, one in Tennessee and even one in Brooklyn.
The most photographed one is certainly the one in Manhattan, located at the intersection between the famous 5th Avenue and Broadway at 22nd and 23rd street and overlooking a beautiful square. The first name of the Flatiron was Fuller Building, from the name of the company that built it in 1902 based on a project by a Chicago architect, Burnham. The name Flatiron was given to it by New Yorkers, perhaps because of its shape, or perhaps because the triangular lot on which the building was built was already nicknamed Flatiron.
The idea behind building this skyscraper was part of a wider project to recover the area above 14th street, which was rather degraded at that time.
The construction of the Flatiron building raised a few controversies because, although New York architects appreciated the interesting project in steel, covered in limestone and clay, regular people did not appreciate the low functionality of its office interior: the many windows of the building made it indeed impossible to even insert a simple library and the offices on the Flatiron tip were really tight and a bit claustrophobic. The tip of the building is only 6.5 feet wide (2 meters) and it extends for almost 300 feet (80 meters) in height and it’s divided into 22 floors. This building is an icon for New Yorkers and when it was built, over 100 years ago, immediately became the symbol of New York’s ambition to be the first vertical development city and the beating heart of a modern economy.
An architect friend of mine told me that the rounded corners of the building were made with the aim of giving some perspective and the illusion of observing a column in the heart of Manhattan. Among the elements of building construction that aroused wonders and popularity, it’s the height of the building, a record size for the time, made possible by the adoption of a whole steel frame and the use of the first electrical elevators.
The building was the first self-contained skyscraper equipped with a fire-fighting system and equipped with a power plant for heat production, the residual vapor being used to heat indoor environments and to power the original elevators.
The adjacent area to the building is called Flatiron District in clear reference to the building.
Everyone knows that the Flatiron has always been the home of insurance companies and real estate corporations but the iconic building has also been the home of publishers, among these, the most famous, albeit unreal, is certainly the Spiderman's Daily Bugle from the homonymous movie.
What not everyone knows is that once the Flatiron subterranean tunnels, six feet below the street level, hosted a restaurant popular among actors and artists who worked in Broadway. The place later became a large tavern and one of the first gay friendly restaurants in the city, which was consequently closed during the prohibition era.
The ground floor of the building has always been used as a shopping area and today the Flatiron has been bought by a large Italian real estate group. Many are the ideas and projects for the building, including that of converting the place into a luxury hotel.