Flatiron Walking Tour

Are you a fan of Serial? How about Making a Murderer? So are we. It seems all the best crime dramas are products of real life. So let us tell you about one that happened in our very own Flatiron district: the sensational murder of acclaimed American architect, Stanford White, by the wealthy Pittsburgh railroad heir, Harry Kendall Thaw.  All you have to do is step back in time to a little over a century ago.  1906, to be exact.

Stanford White was a wealthy, powerful man who maintained a bachelor pad”on 24th Street, just off Madison Square Park.  He was a serial womanizer, and a young model turned chorus girl, Evelyn, soon caught his eye.  White slowly gained the trust of her mother then convinced her to go on an all-expense-paid trip and leave Evelyn in his care.  During this period he drugged and raped the young Evelyn, then swore her to secrecy.  

Flatiron Walking Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The MetLife Tower was the tallest building in New York City from 1909-1913. The Woolworth Building knocked it off its top spot.

Flatiron Walking Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Part of the Admiral Farragut Monument. Farragut is known, among other things, for defeating Confederate forces and taking Mobile Bay where he uttered the immortal words: “Damn the torpedoes . . . full speed . . . ahead!”

White eventually moved on to greener pastures and Evelyn found a new suitor in Thaw.  Thaw proposed to Evelyn, but her sordid past prevented her from accepting.  He continued to push, and finally, Evelyn broke down and confessed the truth.  Thaw persisted in his proposals, so she eventually capitulated and became his wife despite his increasingly unstable behavior.  One evening in New York City, prior to attending opening night of a new musical, the married couple dined at a nearby restaurant and found themselves in the company of White.  Thaw became agitated, which continued throughout dinner and the show.  So when White showed up at the tail end of the performance, there on the rooftop of the original location of Madison Square Garden, Thaw marched up to him and shot him three times in the head.

The proceedings were dubbed “The Trial of the Century” since it included all the hallmarks of such a public spectacle: Wealth. Check. Influence. Check. Sex. Check. Insanity. Check. And, of course, murder. Check. Add to all that the rise of tabloid journalism, the first time a jury had to be sequestered and the first successful use of the insanity defense, and it’s just magic.

Flatiron Walking Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The Appellate Division Courthouse Beaux-Arts building, featuring historical, religious, and legendary lawgivers including Confucius and Moses.

Flatiron Walking Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Statue of William Seward, which is rumored to be Seward’s head added to an existing statue of Lincoln’s body because the employers ran out of funds

And who tipped us off to this true crime bonanza?  It was none other than Mike, our guide during the free walking tour offered through the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District. That’s right, we said FREE.  The non-profit organization spearheads improvement projects, markets the area for business investment, maintains and increases value for residents and promotes the area to visitors.

Longtime tour guide, Mike Kaback, offered an immersive and passionate discourse on the history of the area and many of the surrounding buildings. Having lived in New York his entire life and worked for decades in the nearby Fashion District, Mike was a veritable trove of information. His love for the city and its rich history was undeniable, from the books he recommended to us for further reading to the scrapbook of notations and photos he carried along with him as he presided over the tour.

Free tours are offered weekly on Sunday at 11:00 am and meet at the southwest corner of Madison Square Park.  We covered the current art installation in the park here, but the tour will cover some of the other art fixtures, the buildings, and the rich history that comes with all of it.  

For additional information on the free Flatiron walking tours, visit the website here.  For additional tours by Mike, visit his website here.  

(And for more a really detailed account of the White murder, with great pictures and news clippings, visit Keith York City’s blog post about it here.  You know you want to.)

Pair it with:

Breakfast at Pondicheri

Flatiron Walking Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Flatiron Walking Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

As much as we love breakfast — and boy, do we! — the comfort and familiarity of the accustomed breakfast offerings occasionally feel a little Groundhog Day-ish. So that’s how we ended up at Pondicheri, the Houston transplant offering multi-regional Indian fusion cuisine.  Here, the omelet is made with “everything but the kitchen sink” and is available as a vegetarian or non-vegetarian dish.  The non-vegetarian version includes lamb keema, and it promises to wake you up with its curried spices and waves of flavor. If Indian food first thing in the morning makes you nervous, opt for one of their milder options, like the Green Dosa or the Beet Uttapam.  Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are plentiful.  Why not try something different?

15 West 27th St

Mon through Thurs 7:30 am – 10 pm
Friday 7:30 am – 10:30 pm
Saturday 9 am – 10:30 pm
Sunday 9 am – 10 pm

– L. and J.

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