Seeing New York City, at the Flatiron Building

New York tours at the Flatiron Building, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same scene in 2014:

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New York City sightseeing tours are nothing new, although the vehicles in the 1904 photo hardly resemble the tour buses that now roam the streets of New York.  Taken along the Fifth Avenue side of the Flatiron Building, the 1904 vehicles advertise that tours start at the “Flat Iron Building,” even though the sign above the door of the building is marked with its then-official name, the Fuller Building.  The vehicles also state “Telephone Connection,” which I presume means that the tour offices have a telephone.  One would think that the number would also be provided, though, but perhaps back then all one needed to do was tell the operator to connect them with “Seeing New York.”  The tour buses also look incredibly dangerous – there are no seat belts or other safety equipment, and it’s a long way down if anyone falls off.  I don’t know what eventually became of the company, but the Flatiron Building is still there, as is the other building visible to the right.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Building, New York City

The view of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building, looking east on 23rd Street in New York City, in 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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Prior to the construction of the tower, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company was headquartered in the 11-story building at the corner of Madison Avenue and 23rd Street.  It was built in 1893, and appears to dominate over its surroundings.  However, as seen here, it was soon dwarfed by the tower when it was completed in 1909.  It was demolished in the 1950s and replaced with the current, nondescript concrete and glass structure at the same location.

As an interesting historical note, the building in the 1900 photo has a banner on it that reads “Headquarters Republican National Committee,” and a huge banner over 23rd Street to promote the candidacy of William McKinley for president and Theodore Roosevelt for vice president.  They would go on to win the election in the fall, and a year later Roosevelt became president after McKinley’s assassination.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, New York City

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, between 1909 and 1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same building in 2014:

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Completed in 1909, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower was the tallest building in the world until the completion of the Woolworth Building in 1913.  It was the company’s headquarters until 2005, and the tower portion is now being converted into a hotel.  At the base of the tower in the first photo, to the right, is the original office building, which built in 1893 and replaced by the current one in the 1950s.

Flatiron Building, New York City

The view of the Flatiron Building around 1902. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same scene in 2014:

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Another view of the Flatiron Building, looking south with Broadway on the left and Fifth Avenue on the right.  Besides the Flatiron Building, a few other ones still exist from the 1902 photo, including the  building with the gold dome to the right, and the short, yellow brick building just beyond the Flatiron Building along Broadway.  Notice the horse-drawn cabs along the side of Broadway – this photo was taken from almost the same location as this one, except in the road instead of along the sidewalk.

Flatiron Building from Madison Square Park, New York City

View of the Flatiron Building around 1903. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The same view in 2014:

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Built in 1902 on a triangular plot of land between Broadway and Fifth Avenue at Madison Square, the Flatiron Building remains one of New York’s most distinctive skyscraper.  At the time of its completion, it was one of the first skyscrapers outside of the downtown area, and the first north of 14th Street, which set the stage for subsequent skyscrapers that now dominate the midtown skyline.

Cafe Martin, New York City

Cafe Martin, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 26th Street, New York City, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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The building in the first photo was the site of the famed Delmonico’s restaurant from 1876 until 1899. Located directly across Madison Square from Madison Square Garden, it was one of several locations owned by the Delmonico family, and was considered one of the best fine dining restaurants in the country.  This building was sold in 1901, and became the Hotel Martin.  I don’t know what became of this business, but the building obviously no longer exists; based on the architecture of the current building, this was probably sometime by the 1920s.  However, most of the surrounding buildings in the 1908 photo still exist, including the building immediately to the left, which looks looks out of place in the first photo, but blends in well in the present-day photo, now that it is no longer three stories taller than its neighbors.