One of Asheville’s three oldest skyscrapers and historic office buildings is having a 90th birthday party throughout the month of November.
Asheville’s historic Flatiron Building is one of three surviving and restored skyscrapers that once towered over Asheville while prohibition raged. Notable writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Carl Sandburg walked the streets of Asheville, while creating such classics as The Great Gatsby, Look Homeward Angel, along with The Gift of the Magi, respectively.
Today, Asheville’s modern skyscrapers surround the Flatiron yet its vibrancy and beauty remain evident.
“The Flatiron Building was completed in 1927, designed by architect Albert C. Wirth of New York City and constructed by a local developer who was key in the development of Asheville’s Uptown District, L.B. Jackson Builders,” said Russell Thomas, General Manager and one of the partners in the building. “The Flatiron’s independent small business community has thrived for 90 years and we are inviting everyone to help us celebrate.”
The buildings’ interesting triangular shape gives the “Flatiron” its name. A flatiron was commonly used in the 1920s as a “clothing iron” and was heated by being placed on the hearth of a fireplace or wood burning stove. A massive cast sculpture of a flatiron designed by artist Reed Todd sits in front of the building at the intersection of Asheville’s Battery Park and Wall Street. The Flatiron Building is likely modeled after the famous Flatiron Building in New York City.
The Flatiron Building has been home to thousands of Asheville’s small businesses over its nine decades. The Flatiron is a centerpiece of downtown architecture, is registered as a state landmark, and operates as a not-for-profit organization.
Schools and tourists are encouraged to visit this famous spot, explore its hidden treasures as well as its on-site Renewable Energy Facility which provides hot water to the building. Group tours of the historic building are available by appointment.
The tour covers the building’s storied history including The original home of WWNC radio, and with that the first radio broadcast of the godfather of country music, Jimmie Rodgers, and the location of the original War of the Worlds radio show in 1938.
Curiously, the building’s elevator is still operated manually by a human elevator operator. Spending time in the Flatiron is like stepping back in time.
“I have run the elevators for years and it’s kind of like being a blimp pilot, not many of us are left,” jokes longtime elevator man Neil Mobberly. “Both kids and adults seem surprised that these old time Otis elevators are still in operation and require a human operator.”
For years thousand of tourists view stunning vistas and sunsets from the Flatiron’s balconies. A sunset at the Flatiron is a must-see for visitors to Asheville. Joseph Dunn, the Flatiron’s Food and Beverage Manager says,“We will be serving Flatiron Pale Ale and 90th birthday celebratory cocktails throughout November.”
Flatiron Building 90th B-day Cocktails
Sons of Iron – Old Fashioned — Local – Troy & Sons Blonde Whiskey, muddled dark cherry, bitters, natural vanilla syrup, splash of soda water with a garnish of burnt orange
Fitzgerald 1927 – Traditional Daiquiri — Local – Adam Dalton Distillery Hammond 100 percent Proof Rum, coconut natural syrup, lime, vigorously shaken with dark cherry garnish
Shelby Harrell is the editor of the Biltmore Beacon, editor of The Guide arts and entertainment publication and is a staff writer for Mountaineer Publishing. Originally from Asheville, she has worked in journalism for seven years and currently lives in Clyde, NC.