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Thread: Flatiron Building - 175 Fifth Avenue @ Broadway - by Daniel Burnham

  1. #31


    2 thomasjfletcher
    Thanks for the cool pics, comrade Lenin!

    I've read somewhere, that when the building was just completed, there were crowds of men who liked to watch how the wind near the building lifts up skirts of the ladies. Was it indeed?

  2. #32
    Senior Member Bob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Fairfax, VA

    Default 23 Skidoo

    That story about the flying skirts in the vicinity of the Flatiron is probably true. My late grandmother, who lived to the ripe age of 101, used to use the phrase "23 skidoo" all the time whenever the occasion presented itself to yell at my and my alleged brother. One time, I asked her where she got that expression. She told me that when she was a little girl, she remembered there were NY cops who used to shoo away men who would hang around the Flatiron, waiting for gusts of wind off the building to blow women's dresses up. The cops would tell the lounging men, "23 skidoo" to get them to shuffle off 23rd street. I don't think I believed this story, but years later I came across the very same story in print, somewhere. So, I will assume there is some truth to it. The building was very tall for its time and its odd shape did create some interesting vortices at ground level. And I'm sure it still does.

  3. #33

    Default "23 skidoo"

    Thanx, Bob!
    Anyone can add some interesting info/links on this topic?

  4. #34

    Default Re: "23 skidoo"

    Quote Originally Posted by g@tor
    Thanx, Bob!
    Anyone can add some interesting info/links on this topic?
    Glad to oblige. From the Word Detective:

    Besides, I stood on that corner for two days myself and nothing happened.

    Dear Evan: Greetings. I am looking for some verification of an expression born during the "roaring twenties." "Twenty three skidoo!" is the expression. I`ve checked a plethora of sources including Bartlett's, etc., yet still no avail! If you can help me out with my quest, it would be most appreciated. -- Richard McDonald, Canada, via the internet.

    Well, I can certainly help you out with your quest, but I can't promise you a definitive answer because there isn't one. It's not for lack of interest in the phrase among etymologists, however. The puzzle of "twenty-three skiddoo," which can mean "let's go, "get lost," "aha!," or a variety of other things, is one of the classic word-origin questions, and nearly every authority has at least one theory. Incidentally, although most people who have heard "twenty-three skiddoo" regard it as the quintessential silly slang of the "Roaring Twenties," the phrase actually appeared a bit earlier, just before World War One, so it was relatively old hat as slang goes by the 1920's.

    The "skiddoo" part is fairly easy to trace, and is almost certainly a variant of "skedaddle," meaning "to depart in haste." The "twenty-three," however, is a bit more obscure. My parents, in their Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, reported two of the more popular theories. The first traces it to a popular stage production of Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" in which a character counted off the number of victims being guillotined in the final act, with the hero, Sydney Carton, being the twenty-third and last. The intonation "twenty-three!" was the last line of the play, and was subsequently adopted by Broadway regulars as jocular slang for "that's it -- let's get out of here."

    Another theory, which has been widely reported as fact but which strikes me as highly improbable, traces the phrase to the corner of Twenty-third Street and Broadway in New York City, location of the famous Flatiron Building and, for purposes of this story at least, a very windy intersection. It is said that the young men of the 1890's would gather at this corner in hopes of seeing a lady's dress blown up by the wind, a practice which the local police would discourage with the gruff order "Twenty-three skiddoo!"

    Since neither of these theories strikes me as very believable (especially not the "windy corner" one), I was pleased to find that the late Eric Partridge devoted nearly a full page to "twenty-three skiddoo" in his Dictionary of Catch Phrases (reprinted by Scarborough House in 1992). After recounting the popular theories about the phrase, the eminent etymologist Partridge reported that one of his correspondents felt that the phrase might have had its roots in old telegraphers' code, where common phrases were replaced by numbers. In this code, "30" sent in Morse code meant "end of transmission" (a notation still used by journalists to signal the end of a story), "73" meant "best regards" (still very much in use by amateur radio operators), and "23" meant "away with you!"

    This, to me, seems the most likely explanation of the phrase. The old code meaning of "twenty-three," coupled with "skiddoo," a variant of "skedaddle," perfectly conveys the meaning of what we, today, would sum up simply as "beat it!"

  5. #35

    Default Flatiron Building -- new curtain wall

    From the ESB webcam, earlier today:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Flatiron defaced.jpg 
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  6. #36


    Is H & M a new tenent at The Flatiron? Is this the first time this building has had such an 'advertisement' on it?

  7. #37


    Nah, they're just doing repairs on the prow.

  8. #38

    Default Flatiron Building: Towering, Obnoxious Ad

    From the Municipal Art Society, earlier today:

    Nine Violations Issued for Towering, Obnoxious Flatiron Ad

    By Vanessa Gruen
    Wednesday, March 30, 2005

    The Department of Buildings today issued nine violations for the illegal advertising banner recently placed on the apex of the historic Flatiron Building at Madison Square. The MAS took the matter to the department just after the garish and oversized signage was put in place last week.

    The Flatiron, an icon of New York built in 1902, was one of the first buildings given city landmark protection status in 1966. If you feel as strongly about this issue as we do, make your views known to the mayor and the Department of Buildings. Call 311 today.

    Temporary signage, whether on construction sidewalk sheds or on scrim that covers temporary work, must comply with the city?s zoning regulations on signage. For the construction shed, the violations were:
    1. Failure to comply with filed plans. Plans called for a 4-foot high shed and they built it to 8 feet in order to accommodate the Citigroup ad.
    2. Sign on surface area is too large.
    3. Prohibited advertising sign.
    4. Installing advertising sign without a permit.

    For the immense sign on the scaffolding:
    1. Sign creates hazardous wind load.
    2. Prohibited advertising sign on scaffold.
    3. Sign extends too high. It exceeds the 40-foot height limit.
    4. Surface area for the sign is too large.
    5. Failure to get permit from Buildings Department. (The permit would not have been granted)


    Experience the city with us! If you would like to become a member of the Municipal Art Society please call Regan Lynn at 212.935.3960, or join online at

    THE MUNICIPAL ART SOCIETY :: 457 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10022
    Telephone: (212) 935-3960 :: Fax: (212) 753-1816 :: Email:

  9. #39

    Default Argh!

    Great photographs and information. The Fuller and Woolworth are two of my favorite buildings. I hope the garish billboard gets the 23 skidoo before I arrive to photograph both buildings. Yuk.

  10. #40
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    I think some of the complaints (such as wind load hazard and the height of the shed) are a little frivolous.

    But the giant opaque advertisement screen is more than a little over the top.

  11. #41


    before i realised that it was on scaffolding i thought that it was becoming another '1 times square' style building - which would be a violation of decency for the flatiron.

    although its a perfect spot for it... if it was an ugly concrete thing then hell yes, cover it in signs. But not our historic flatiron!

  12. #42


    Many cities have "Flatiron" buildings based on their unique street patterns, they provide a unique juxtaposition to the more conventionally shaped buildings, for example when I was in Toronto I saw two “Flatiron’s” one old, one new, Toronto likewise is a remarkable city.

  13. #43

    Question just one question

    All of this is incredibly edifying (if you'll pardon the expression), but I was wondering if anyone who loves this interesting building knows the name of the structure that stood on that location before it. I have been trying like mad to find this tidbit out, but any website mentioning the Fuller/Flatiron building fails to acknowledge any history prior to its construction.
    The reason I ask, you ask? My great-great-great-great-grandparents, a family by the name of Molloy, owned the hotel that preceded the Flatiron. I would love to find a photo or engraving or sketch of whatever this hotel looked like, or even some guidance about the names of these folks. My g-g-g-grandfather, Henry Hyde Parker, married their daughter, while he ran a branch of a British diamondiers on Maiden Lane.
    Any thoughts?

  14. #44


    The Cumberland Hotel occupied the site before the Fuller Building, and was notable in NYC history. In 1892, 13 years after Edison developed the incandescent light bulb, the first electric sign, advertising Manhattan Beach, was installed on the north face of the hotel.

  15. #45
    Banned Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY


    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp
    The Cumberland Hotel occupied the site before the Fuller Building, and was notable in NYC history. In 1892, 13 years after Edison developed the incandescent light bulb, the first electric sign, advertising Manhattan Beach, was installed on the north face of the hotel.
    Another magic moment brought to you by the elves at WiredNewYork.

    You really could only find the answer here.

    Zippy, I'm impressed ::clap, clap, clap::

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