A closer look at the history of the city’s Flatiron buildings
New York’s Flatiron Building, originally the Fuller Building, is a 22-story, steel-framed, triangular monument located in Manhattan’s financial district. It is considered the most famous structure of this type in the world.
When it opened in 1902, the slender building – once described in the New York Tribune as “a tight piece of pie” – became the city’s first skyscraper.
Shaped like the old-fashioned iron used for pressing clothes, these named buildings would start large at one end and then narrow at the other end – usually its entrance.
It was also an often copied structure as the town of Gardner had three of these flatirons in its downtown area.
The first two are rather obvious – the Heywood-Wakefield flatiron, which sits at the corner of Central and Lake Streets, while the second is the old Gardner Trust Building in Bullnose Park on the triangle of land between Main and Pleasant Streets and City Hall Avenue. .
However, a third flatiron once stood away from the old trading house at the intersection of West and Parker streets in the lower West End, where Shell station is today.
16 Oriole Street
The Flatiron Building on Upper West Street was built around 1889 and was owned by Mrs. Adeline Perron. A three-storey building, it had two apartments on the upper and middle floors, while the lower level housed the Patneaude et Chabot shirt factory and Joseph Doucette’s hairdressing salon.
A fire in the building on February 10, 1909 caused damage estimated at $ 10,000 and completely wiped out the shirt factory.
Since this horror was rather detrimental to the lower part of Parker Street, it was decided to completely raze the building or perhaps relocate it. The decision was made to move it down Parker Street.
Rollers were to be placed under the three-decker for its descent into Parker Street. However, when the block was moved from its foundation it was at such an angle that it would have been difficult to descend the steep slope of Parker Street with horses moving the building.
It was then decided to move the block to Oriole Street for its final resting place.
Large crowds gathered for the show, and once the building was supported by blocks and wooden beams, it was slowly on its way. A large tree on Oak Street had to be cut down with the building along the way. Workers on Oriole Street began laying the foundation in the hopes that everything would be in place once the building reached its new home.
It took almost a full month to slowly navigate the short way to West Street, with accidents and occasional inclement weather preventing the daily move.
As we approached the sharp bend in Monadnock Street, the building climbed the hill of Way Street. The climb up Way Street was particularly difficult, but once she reached the top the rest of the trip felt like a snap.
Today, we could cross the dead end road that is Oriole Street in search of flatiron and leave without a clue. However, all is well – the big block at 16 Oriole St.
Using a bird’s eye view via a Google Earth search, one would easily see the top of the building in its original flat iron state, with the rest of the block enveloping the structure.
While the building has served as an apartment complex for a century now, its real fame has come with the unique journey it took over 100 years ago from its original Lafayette Square location.
The grand, six-story old factory building is perhaps one of Gardner’s most familiar, if not impressive, structures.
It was built shortly after the turn of the 20th century and Heywood-Wakefield has become the area’s largest employer.
Longtime Gardnerites will fondly remember the days when the buzz of activity emanated from open windows in summer along with the intoxicating scent of wood chips. At noon, workers lined up the front sidewalk benches to enjoy their lunches.
In June 1979, it was announced that Heywood-Wakefield would be shutting down, the city’s largest chair maker leaving town.
About ten years later, the old factory was renovated into luxury apartments and today the flatiron building is home to many people in the city.
Gardner Trust Co.
In downtown Gardner, the building that housed the former Worcester County National Bank was called the Flatiron Block.
The building was remodeled in October 1916 to become the home of Gardner Trust Co., which moved from its former location on Lower Chestnut Street.
During its renovation, it also took the shape of a flat iron to conform to the plot of land which also formed a triangular shape in West Gardner Square.
The area was officially known as Bullnose Park, despite attempts by some to have the park named after other local Gardnerites. Some of the names suggested over the years were Nicholas D. Rudziak, former director of the Chamber of Commerce, Clarence Quimby, director of the Cushing Academy and former president of the Gardner Trust Company Howard D. Ferguson.
In January 1961, Gardner Trust merged with the Worcester County National Bank and remained a bank building until the late 1990s.
Today, the sole occupant of the building is Edward Jones Investments.
Comments and suggestions for Then and Now can be sent to Mike Richard at email@example.com or in writing to Mike Richard, 92 Boardley Road, Sandwich, MA 02563.