The Flatiron Building
Backstory and Context
The building was ordered by Dr. Bacon Saunders, the then-Dean of the Fort Worth Medical College.3 Dr. Saunders saw the original Flatiron building during a conference in New York City, and enjoyed the building's design so thoroughly that he wanted to bring it back to his home city.4 Once back in Fort Worth, Saunders commissioned a ten-story building that evoked the design elements that he loved so much. However, Saunders underestimated the building costs for such a large structure and was forced to reduce the building to seven stories--still the tallest building by far in Fort Worth, and in all of North Texas.
Even so, the commission reportedly cost Dr. Saunders $70,000, a staggering sum of money at the time. Much of the cost was due to the building's novel steel from, which was groundbreaking technology for the era. Indeed, the Flatiron building in Manhattan had used a similar steel frame, which allowed it to tower above surrounding buildings. Dr. Saunders-who wanted to reserve the top floor of the building for his offices-wanted to make the building as tall as possible, and so thus used a similar frame.
During the construction process, nearby merchants complained often about the shadow that such a "tall" building would cast. These complaints eventually dwindled, as the town grew excited about the publicity that such a tall building would bring. Police Chief Maddox pacified many with his promise to watch the construction area to ensure that the strong winds would not bring down the heavy steel girders used in the construction of the structure.
The building opened in July 1907.5 The first tenant of the new building was the West Fort Worth Land Company.6
The completed structure incorporated panther heads and other elements into the traditional New York Styling.7 These panther heads commemorate Fort Worth's nickname of "Panther City." Local legend holds that during the Panic of 1873, things were so quite in Fort Worth that a adult panther was seen sleeping in the middle of Main Street. Of course, this report was picked up by the citizens of the nearby City of Dallas, who were only too happy to slander the name of Fort Worth. However, rather then being insulted, the Fort Worth leadership embraced the panther as the city's mascot, and included it on police badges.8
Today, the building is owned by a prominent Fort Worth Doctor, who is transitioning the building to luxury apartments.9 The building also features a large mural by Italian artist Franco Alessandrini.10
Interestingly, Fort Worth's namesake, William Jenkins Worth, is buried at the base of the Flatiron building in New York City.11