Chicago’s “Flat Iron” is a three-story triangular building dating to the 1920s, notable for its attractive white terra cotta and red and black tiled detail.
It was hoped that the shape of the building – triangular and reminiscent of a clothes iron – would attract a department store anchor tenant, but that never came to pass. The famed sheet music publisher and instrument manufacturer Lyon & Healy did move into a section of the ground floor, and a pool hall and bowling alley once occupied part of the third floor. Before the turn of the 20th century, the corner of Milwaukee and North Avenues was the site of a home probably built in the 1850s by an early Chicago settler named Nathan Allen, according to neighborhood historian Elaine Coorens. But the triangle of land was otherwise mostly
undeveloped when the Flat Iron building was commissioned by a Boston-based developer. The famed architects Holabird and Roche took on the commission, creating a three-story office and retail building smothered in terracotta ornamentation and checkerboard details at a construction cost of $250,000. Inside, small offices line the hallways on the upper floors which have pressed tin ceilings and skylights.
Like the Fine Arts Building, which is owned by the same people, the Flat Iron still has an antique elevator operating – a 1912 Otis Elevator Traction model.In the mid-‘70s, artists began moving into what was by that time a rundown neighborhood, attracted by the large spaces with low rents, including those in the Flat Iron. The neighborhood has since gentrified, but the Flat Iron Arts Building continues to be a home to the arts in the heart of Wicker Park. -Erica Gunderson
The Flat Iron Arts Building is currently home to forty artist studios, a theatre, hair salons, tattoo parlor, and event space. The building is open to the public daily from 10am-8pm. Every first Friday of the month the artists of Flat Iron open their doors and welcome the community in to share their work. The winding hallways of this historic building will lead you to murals painted by Chicago artists, monthly exhibitions, and music performances.