Flat Iron Fiesta

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have been itching to share this acquisition since I purchased it this summer on our well worn Friday night path to and from Vietnamese take-out. Folks who follow my Instagram and Facebook page saw it when I first spied it in the window of the nearby junk store over the July 4 weekend.

I opined on its wonderfulness then (said it was too big to buy) and it wasn’t much more than a week later that I hustled Kim over to help me strike the deal and bring it home. Numerous bits and pieces have found their way into the Pictorama collection from this tiny storefront. Most recently I have written about a few piggy banks (two of those posts here and here), but this will remain in my mind as the very best buy I suspect.

A short video I made of the window at the shop when I found the Flat Iron Building among these other model buildings.

It turns out to have been made by a company called Department 56. (Odd name, yes? The man who started the company, Ed Bazinet, had worked for a company called Bachman, a florist and wholesale gift importer. He ultimately convinced Bachman to invest $50k in his new company which would specialize in high-end holiday items, and named it for his former unit, which of course was 56.)

My Flat Iron building is part of a large series devoted to Christmas in New York, reproducing landmarks of the New York skyline. It is (weirdly and surprisingly) made of ceramic. While it is heavy it is nowhere near as heavy as I thought it would be sizing it up as likely being a non-ferrous metal of some sort – like a giant piece from a toy train set.

It was a great window chock full of building models.

While these are specifically made for a holiday set up they are amazingly beautiful reproductions of New York architectural stand-outs and range from the obvious, such as the Empire State building and the Chrysler building, to the somewhat more obscure such as Luchows, the Singer Building and something called the Uptown Chess Club.

The reproduced buildings with pre-20th century architecture seem to revert almost immediately to too cute for my taste. However, the Woolworth building is tantalizing (talk about huge though) and Kim and I are still discussing if there is a spot that can accommodate it. (Stay tuned for a perhaps future post.) It is unclear to me if they continue to produce more New York buildings and it seems they pay tribute to a smattering of other cities – I believe I saw a building from Dayton, Ohio online too.

Empire State building for sale on eBay.

Of course my mind races with what it would be like to have enough space for them all. A tiny, if snowy, NYC right here in the apartment! Imagine that!

My Flat Iron building was brought onto the market in 2006 and “retired” in 2010, although it appears to do a brisk business on the secondary market if you too (understandably) must now own one – they are available. The claims of value on the resale market were considerably higher than what I paid. As you can see from the video the proprietor purchased an entire collection of miniature buildings of various kinds. Mine was the only one made by Department 56. (I was very attracted to a tiny Central Park made of metal. There may be more to come on that – it has stayed with me.)

I want that building in the window! Many reflections interfere a bit, but this was my first sighting.

If you look carefully you will note that the building is gently trimmed with snow. It is meant to have wreaths, bows and garlands added (purchased separately of course) and maybe even a tiny couple getting caught (23 skidoo!) in the wind around the building.

A tiny couple that can be added to my building scenario – for a price of course! Not in my collection.

So after I got it home I of course examined it at length. The company name and the date of copyright is on the bottom. As I examined it I realized that there were holes in the bottom where two small lights should be inserted. Unfortunately it turned out that the replacement lights were on back order and getting a hold of someone to place my order a bit complicated. It took several months, but a few weeks ago the lights showed at last and I was thrilled to be able to light it up which really does add something to it.

I do not for a minute regret the space that has been dedicated to our Flat Iron building on a bookcase over our bed where I get to see it daily. Ours is a year round New York City admiration, but since we are heading into the holiday season it seems fitting that it can do double duty to an extent in this December post. I have considered if I should acquire a tiny decoration or two as a nod to the season, but knowing me it would remain on infinitely. The tiny windblown couple, who appear to be from an amalgamation of the 1940’s, would be less seasonally specific, if forever caught in a very single moment in time.

Even if it remains as our sole iconic New York architectural tribute here at Deitch Studio I don’t think I could have picked a better one. I have long favored the Flat Iron building as one of the greatest buildings in New York and never pass it without a moment of passing admiration. It just barely slips into the 20th century, construction started in 1901 and it opened in ’02, and it has a foot in the old while managing to be a harbinger of the new, melding time and style in a way that so much of New York City does.