simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: 23 Skidoo
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Wednesday, 19 March 2008

23 Skidoo

When you have a structure that is a huge NYC icon, a National Historic Landmark and internationally recognizable, you have both a responsibility and a serious challenge. After all, not only has the Flatiron Building been photographed by millions, but the roster also includes some of the country's most prestigious photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen and Berenice Abbott. The beautiful photos of Steichen and Stieglitz have done much to immortalize the Flatiron.
This is why I have waited over two years to do a photo and piece on the Flatiron - it needs to have justice done. The perfect opportunity presented itself last Thursday, the day I photographed Ashley Alexandra Dupre's residence on 25th Street after the Spitzer scandal. Being out before dawn in the neighborhood, gave me an opportunity to swing around the corner and capture the building at sunrise on a magnificent, clear day. I felt like a serious photographer that morning, having chosen the conditions and making a pilgrimage at the appropriate hour. With little traffic, I was able to position myself anywhere with ease - including the middle of the streets. See a second photo here.
The building owes its name to the triangular plot of land upon which it sits, which was called the Flatiron block. Contrary to urban mythology, this name predates the building's construction. It was officially the Fuller Building, but from the beginning it became popularly known as the Flatiron. One of the city's oldest existing skyscrapers (22 stories, 285 feet tall), it was built in 1902, designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham in the Beaux-Arts style. The exterior is a rusticated limestone with glazed terra-cotta.
On its own island block, it is circumscribed by 23rd Street, Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 22nd Street, diagonally across Madison Square Park. The area neighboring it is known as the Flatiron District.

Trivia Note: One of the competing stories for the origin of the expression "23 skidoo" is due to the wind tunnel effect generated by the siting of the building. In the early 20th century, men would gather on 23rd Street trying to get glimpses of women with their dresses being blown up by gusts of wind. The police would give them the "23 skidoo" to remove them from the area ...


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