On the opposite side of Madison Square Park is the pinnacle of the Flatiron district in Lower Manhattan. Built in 1902, it remains a major tourist spot for its oddly picturesque features. Back in a time where skyscrapers were virtually unheard of, New Yorkers thought that it was impossible to have a structure amount to that particular grandeur of height. Although the building is only 22 stories high and doesn’t really seem to be very tall compared to other, more contemporary, skyscrapers, The Flatiron Building was quite baffling for the people of that time.
The 307 foot building was built by a Chicago native, Daniel Burnham. He was born in New York and raised in Chicago. As most of us can empathize with, he didn’t start out his career as some noble architect who was extremely dedicated to becoming an amazing mentor and creator of beautiful structures all over the world. His story began with failed attempts of admission to Harvard and Yale then to unsteady career decisions until the opportunity of architecture came along; almost like he was called to the drafting table, the urban civilization needing him to be a part of something great, something that would eventually be historical and loved. He would eventually be trained under a remarkable Chicago architect, William Le Baron Jenney; he shared this incomparable experience with other great historical figures of the modern era like Louis Sullivan and Martin Roche.
Upon the completion of the Flatiron Building, some New Yorkers fell in a complete and utter dislike with the skyscraper and others were amazed. With the wonky angular building, people were concerned with the possibility of it falling; structures weren’t meant to be that tall and look so unstable on a 25 degree angle base. Eventually they learned to accept the building; it wasn’t going to fall down like so many thought, it actually became an attraction, another reason to come to New York.
Burnham should be a symbol for all of us; that sometimes life doesn’t go your way but it doesn’t mean that you’re not destined for greatness. Maybe people won’t notice how great you are now, but we all have the potential to be or do something significant. Sometimes it’s the “Burnham’s Follies” in life that can completely change and enrich your life.