The Flatiron Building was designed by Chicago's Daniel Burnham as a vertical Renaissance palazzo with Beaux-Arts styling. Unlike New York's early skyscrapers, which took the form of towers arising from a lower, blockier mass, such as the contemporary Singer Building (1902–1908), the Flatiron Building epitomizes the Chicago school conception: like a classical Greek column, its facade of limestone at the bottom changing to glazed terra-cotta as the floors rise) is divided into a base, shaft and capital.
Since it employed a steel skeleton it could be built to 22 stories (285 feet) relatively easily, which would have been difficult using other construction methods of that time. It was a technique familiar to the Fuller Company, a contracting firm based in Chicago with ties to Burnham and considerable expertise in building such tall structures. The building, which took its name from the triangular lot on which it was built – because of its shape, locals called it "the cowcatcher" or "the flatiron" – was officially named the Fuller Building after George A. Fuller, who founded the company that, two years after his death, financed its construction under the leadership of Harry St. Francis Black, Fuller's son-in-law.
The Flatiron Building formed the subject of one of Edward Steichen's iconic atmospheric photographs, taken on a wet wintry late afternoon in 1904. It was also photographed memorably by Alfred Stieglitz. Today, the Flatiron Building is frequently seen on television commercials and documentaries as an easily recognizable symbol of the city.