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Which US City Has the Best Iron Architecture?

Cast-iron architecture is a noteworthy building innovation hailing from the United States. But, which specific US city showcases this American invention best?

Undoubtedly, New York City has some of the best iron architecture in the country, with a number of impressive iron structures dating back to the 1800s. Not to mention, the city’s Cast-Iron Historic District in SoHo has the world’s largest collection of cast-iron buildings, totaling over 200. Below, we’re highlighting some of the architectural wonders of NYC that are built with iron.

The E.V. Haughwout Building

Found in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway is the charming E.V. Haughwout Building. Five stories and 79 feet tall, this building was built in 1857 and designed by John P. Gaynor.

Though its overall design is pretty standard for the other cast-iron structures built in the city at this time, the E.V. Haughwout Building is unique in that it features two cast-iron facades since it stands on the corner of two streets. 

But, to avoid the dangers of hanging two iron facades off brickwork, which could harm the structure, the designer and architect convinced the owner to use a structural metal frame for the building, the first of its kind. For this reason, some refer to this building as the first skyscraper, inspiring the steel-framed skyscrapers that frame the NYC skyline today.

Gunther Building

Another standout iron building on Broome Street is the Gunther Building, which was completed around 1871. The building was originally constructed for William Gunther, a notable furrier at the time, to house various textiles and furs.

Some of the more notable features of the Gunther Building include its bright white facade and curved glass corner.

Hugh O’Neill Building

Designed by architect Mortimer Merritt, construction on the four-story Hugh O’Neill Building was completed in 1890, though was expanded to include a fifth floor in 1895. This is a sizable building, even by today’s standards, taking up the entire Sixth Avenue block between 20th and 21st Streets in the city’s Flatiron District. 

The facade of the Hugh O’Neill Building is graced by Corinthian columns made from cast iron, which are also found throughout the lobby and units within the building. You may notice the building has larger windows than what was typical at the time of construction, partially due to the fact that the building did not originally have electricity, so ample sunlight was important to the businesses operating inside. 

Little Singer Building

The Little Singer Building at 561 Broadway has 12 stories and was built in 1904 by Ernest Flagg, a Brooklyn architect. The building was constructed for the offices and factory of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, though a larger building was constructed just four years after the first building was completed to accommodate the growing business.

Possibly the most unique building on this list, the facade features a rust and green color scheme, made from a combination of cast iron and terra cotta. Looking more closely, you’ll notice wrought iron balconies gracing the front of the building, which are not found on many neighboring structures.

Written by Bailey Schramm