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Designed by Daniel Burnham and built in 1920, the 20-story Flatiron Building has a narrow triangular footprint that resembles the prow of a massive ship. It also features a traditional beaux-arts limestone and terra-cotta facade, built over a steel frame, that gets more complex and beautiful the longer you stare at it. Best viewed from the traffic island north of 23rd St between Broadway and Fifth Ave, this distinctive structure dominated the plaza back in the dawning skyscraper era of the early 1900s.
The construction of the Flatiron Building (originally known as the Fuller Building) coincided with the proliferation of mass-produced picture postcards – the partnership was kismet. Even before its completion, there were images of the soon-to-be tallest tower circulating the globe, creating much wonder and excitement.
Publisher Frank Munsey was one of the building’s first tenants. From his 18th-floor offices he published Munsey’s Magazine, which featured the writings of short-story writer William Sydney Porter, whose pen name was ‘O Henry.’ His musings (in popular stories such as ‘The Gift of the Magi’), the paintings of John Sloan and photographs of Alfred Stieglitz best immortalized the Flatiron back in the day – along with a famous comment by actress Katharine Hepburn, who quipped that she’d like to be admired as much as the grand old building.