The bustling neighborhood, as diverse as New York itself, includes some of the city’s most popular restaurants in a variety of price ranges and cuisines; a dynamic retail environment with a profusion of fashion, beauty and home furnishings stores; superb educational institutions and such architectural highlights as the fabled Flatiron Building, the Metropolitan Life and New York Life buildings and the exquisite New York State Appellate Courthouse. A burgeoning residential community is adding its own new vitality to this historic neighborhood. The district is easily accessed by a range of public transportation options and is just a short stroll from either Grand Central Terminal or Penn Station.

So look around explore, enjoy, and Discover Flatiron! 

 

Flatiron History

Discover Flatiron: Arrival of Gilded Age Social Clubs

The fall social season is now in full swing! To celebrate the occasion, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership makes a brief return to the Gilded Age when a number of noteworthy and diverse social clubs populated the district. These clubs helped define the neighborhood as the premier clubhouse location in New York during the late 19th century.

In the summer of 1836, social club fever reportedly hit New York City. A number of prominent New Yorkers sought to replicate the style of the “great clubs of London, which give a tone and character to the society,” notes the website of the Union Club, one of the first men’s social clubs to organize in New York in 1833. Such clubs would offer visiting clientele a chance to meet for a drink, have dinner, and socialize with others. 

By the latter half of the 19th century, the majority of these clubs representing varied interests could be found in the Flatiron District. The community was also the City’s primary site for entertainment venues, including numerous hotels and opulent private residences of high-profile, wealthy individuals.

There were reportedly 119 clubs in the City by 1893, with membership totaling approximately 24,000 people, noted Club Men of New York by J. H. Rossiter. “Few men in New York do not belong to at least one club, and most of them have membership in one,” according to King's Handbook of New York City by Moses King. “The desirable clubs are usually full to their extreme limit.”

Most clubs were male only, with a few designated for women. One of the first notable women’s clubs was Sorosis, which was established in 1868. The organization encouraged “agreeable and useful relations among women of literary, artistic and scientific tastes,” wrote the Madison Square North Historic District Designation Report issued by the New York City Landmarks Commission in 2001. The club’s 350 members would meet twice a month at Delmonico’s restaurant at 212 Fifth Avenue, at 26th Street.

The best-known clubhouse in the area, however, was the Jerome Mansion at Madison Avenue and 26th Street, and was once the home of financier Leonard Jerome. Nicknamed the “King of Wall Street,” Jerome was later known as the maternal grandfather of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Most clubs in the community existed in much smaller properties in the neighborhood such as townhouses, hotels, and restaurants.

Initially, Jerome, who was a Union supporter during the Civil War, leased space to the Union League Club, a group of Union preservationists, in 1867 for a reported $18,000 per year. In 1899, the University Club, which was founded by Yale graduates as an alumni meeting place, became the mansion’s new occupants. Shortly after, the Manhattan Club became the mansion’s newest tenant, and the property reportedly served as a gathering place for political luminaries including U.S. Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Grover Cleveland, as well as New York City Mayor James “Jimmy” Walker.  

Other significant clubs in the Flatiron District included the Harvard Club of New York City, located at 11 West 22nd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The Club made its debut in the community in 1865 “to advance the interests of the University, and to promote social intercourse among the alumni residents in New York and vicinity,” according to King’s Handbook. The Annual Book Club for New York and Vicinity: The Elite Catalogue of Clubs for 1890-91 reported that Harvard's membership was $410 for residents and $200 for non-residents.

The Quill Club at 22 West 23rd Street was formed in 1890 for “the promotion of fellowship and interchange of views on questions in the domains of religion, morals, philosophy, and sociology,” noted King’s Handbook. The initiation fee was $3 and yearly dues were $15.

The Lotos Club, located at 149 Fifth Avenue, between 21st and 22nd Streets, was organized in 1870 “to promote social intercourse among journalists, artists, and members of the musical and dramatic professions, and representatives, amateurs and friends of literature, science and fine arts,” reported King’s Handbook. The initiation fee was $100 and the yearly dues were $60 for residents and $25 for non-resident members.

The Salmagundi Club at 49 West 22nd Street sought to promote “social intercourse among artists, and the advancement of art,” according to King’s Handbook. Incorporated in 1880, members included crayon artists, sculptors, and draughtsmen. The initiation fee was $20 and the yearly dues were $20.

Other notable social clubs in the area included the Lambs Club, a professional theater group, located at 34 West 26th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues; Columbia University at 15 East 26 Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues; Yale University at 17 East 26th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues; Manhattan Chess Club at 21 West 27th Street, between Sixth Avenue and Broadway; American Jockey Club at 22 West 27th Street, between Sixth Avenue and Broadway; and New York Horticultural Society at 26 West 28th Street, between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, wrote the Madison Square North Historic District Designation Report

At the beginning of the 20th century, an increasing number of businesses and residents were relocating to New York’s next big cultural and economic location—Midtown Manhattan. This geographical transition would ultimately include the northward exit of a vast majority of social clubs that once decorated the Flatiron District landscape during the Gilded Age more than a century ago.

Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

Flatiron Faces

Flatiron Faces: Robert Pinzon, Owner, Abracadabra NYC

Meet Robert Pinzon, owner of Abracadabra NYC, the iconic costume and magic superstore that occupies 12,000 square feet at 19 West 21st Street. “It's fun to see customers having a blast trying on costumes and making fun of themselves,” says Pinzon. “It’s also been fun to meet a lot of celebrities here–from Shaquille O'Neal to Dionne Warwick!”

1.  You own Abracadabra NYC, the legendary costume and magic superstore that has been here in the Flatiron District since 1997. Tell us more about owning this place.

I bought the store in 2007. The store wasn't anything like it is today. We turned it around to be more like a destination store. We have interactive props all over that seem to be a crowd pleaser with the tourists who visit New York City. Our costume selection is huge. Our magic section is perfect for amateurs and professionals alike. Our professional makeup section is second to none. At first it was a challenge to get the store looking like it does now, and we needed to revamp every section. 

2.  Halloween is coming up in a couple weeks. What do you think will be some of this year’s must-have costumes?

That's really tough to answer. Most of the time we know what the best costume was after Halloween. However, consistently, the iconic superheroes are very popular–Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, the Joker. Yes, the Joker! The new superheroes are also always in demand. This year's Black Panther is going to be serious business.

3.  What have been your favorite items and biggest sellers over the years? And, how many costumes occupy your space?

I don't really have a favorite item. However, I do enjoy our magicians doing demonstrations of magic tricks for the customers. Most of the time it turns into a party atmosphere with people laughing and screaming. It's awesome!

The biggest sellers have been superheroes–from Star Wars to Deadpool, etc. There are so many of them, but people always want to be a superhero at least for a day. The store has 12,000 square feet. We occupy about 2,000 square feet for storage. Currently, we carry about 25,000 package costumes and accessories. Our rental department carries about 12,000 costume rentals. It is the largest in NYC.

4.  How did you initially become involved in costuming, and is there any advice you would share with others who are interested in this line of work? 

I became involved with Abracadabra because my brother was managing the store at the time. I thought it would be a fun business to run, so we bought it in 2007. I did gain some experience running a temporary Halloween store the previous year in 2006, so maybe that got me interested, too. My advice to others who might be interested in this line of work is...I feel like Abracadabra is a New York City thing, and being in the Flatiron District is a beautiful thing. The competition is fierce. There is also a big Halloween store downtown. In addition, the internet has taken a chunk out of our business.

5. Last year you considered selling the store. Why?

I thought I was done. I thought about selling and I had some investors interested. However, my kids didn't want me to sell it and they expressed an interest in taking it over. So I thought about it, thought about it, and three seconds later, I said, ‘YEAH, BABY!’ I really love the store and I'm a New Yorker. I grew up in the city in Upper Manhattan in Washington Heights. So now all the kids are actively involved, at some level, in the business. However, my son-in-law Brian is running the show at the store.

6.  Do you plan to celebrate Halloween this year? How so?

We celebrate Halloween at the store every year. The whole month of October is Halloween for us. The last few days before Halloween is party time. The store is packed, the music is going, the props are scaring people around every corner, and the employees are dressed in their favorite costumes. It's second only to the Halloween parade.

7.  Switching gears, when it’s time to leave Abracadabra NYC, where are your favorite spots to grab a bite to eat in the neighborhood? Do you have a go-to dish?

My favorite spot to get something to eat is at Essen on Sixth Avenue. They’ve got the best buffet in town. But I also love to bring mama's cooking (that's my wife) to work and eat it at the plaza on Broadway and 23rd Street.

8.  What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?

You must see the Flatiron Building. What an awesome building! The architectural design and the details on that building are phenomenal. Now, what you must do here in the neighborhood is to stop by Abracadabra NYC. We were voted by The Guide to Odd New York as one of the Top 10 places to visit. It's the most unique store in the heart of NYC. Ask for Bob.

9.  What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

My favorite building in the area is definitely the Flatiron Building. It's also the favorite for a lot of visitors. I see it every day along with the amount of visitors taking pictures.

10.  Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

I LOVE IT!!!

Photo Credit: Hailey Rutt

Walking Tour

Weekly Free Walking Tour

Join our professional guides on a 90-minute journey through this vibrant neighborhood, viewing some of the City’s most notable landmarks.

Click here for more information.

What People Are Saying see

“Village meets midtown.”

When asked to describe the Flatiron District in three words

Brandon Stanton
photographer, Humans of New York

“It's a three-way tie. The architecture. The vibe. The food.”

When asked about his favorite thing about the Flatiron District

Marc Glosserman
Founder & CEO Hill Country Hospitality + local resident

“You are building a community like no other!”

Excerpt from remarks at the 8th Annual Meeting of the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership

Gale A. Brewer
Manhattan Borough President

Quick Stats

21M+

Square feet of commercial real estate

46M+

Total 2016 MTA riders for 23rd Street (1,6,N,R,F,M) and 28th St (1,6,N,R) stations

4,270

Hotel rooms

10,769

Taxi drop offs per weekday in 2016

3.3+

Dollars invested in the Public Plazas by the BID