Key Findings

7 Aug

 “Key Findings”

From my research about the Flatiron District, my interactions with the people in the area, and my own observations, I have made several conclusions about the neighborhood. The district has evolved over time, and is in a completely different place now than it was when it began to gain attention during the Gilded Age. It is my belief that the type of people who populate it everyday, has changed the most in the past 150 years. I learned this through researching the area, but after my interactions with a family who lives in the area, a police officer, and a person who works in the area, it became clear that this is the most dramatic change the neighborhood has seen.

During the late 1800s and the early 1900s, the neighborhood was home to “The Ladies Mile” and was full of wealthy women who had the time and money to spend on expensive clothes and other shopping. This phase, however, would not last forever. During the Great Depression and continuing on into the 1950s, the area was largely deserted and crime was prevalent. The area started regaining life in the 1960s when artists started to move into the area because of the low rent prices, but crime still greatly affected the quality of life in the district. From there, the Flatiron District evolved into where it is today, a trendy area full of restaurants and happening bars and clubs. When you walk the streets surrounding the Flatiron building today, you will notice that the area is populated primarily by families and young couples, though there are also many tourists who visit the area to see the Flatiron building and explore Madison Square Park.

All of these different phases of the Flatiron Districts history have involved it being inhabited by different kinds of people. From wealthy women, to artists, to a restaurant district full of hip young people, the Flatiron District has a truly diverse history.

Through this project, I also learned a lot about the study of people and what my responsibilities are as an ethnographer to the people and to the area. Even though an area is obviously inanimate, you cannot forget the thoughts and feelings of people who live there. They have a history as well as the buildings and landscape of the place, and personally, I’ve found this is much more telling about the history of an area. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the ethnographer to treat the people who live in the area that they’re studying with respect.

There is a balance that comes with this sensitivity though. As an ethnographer, you also have a responsibility to not let your emotions for the people in the area you are studying get in the way of documenting the facts. It is a study, and you have to call things as you see them. If you fail to do so, you are not doing your part as an ethnographer.

In some ways ethnography is objective, and in some ways it is subjective. The history, such as the hard facts about population, is objective. When you consider the type of people who live in the area and categorize them, you are being subjective. Even though it is subjective, it is essential to an ethnographic study and being able to make generalizations about an area. This is how knowledge is created. The authors and writers whose books and articles I have read about the area made their own conclusions about the area and the people. For example, they observed in the 1960s that artists were moving into the area. Then, they wrote about it and it became fact. Since ethnographers have the power to create this knowledge and influence future scholars, it is their responsibility to keep the facts straight.

Overall, my study of the Flatiron District has led me to look critically at an area and see how it has evolved over time. I have truly fallen in love with the architecture and atmosphere of the Flatiron District and believe I have presented my findings about it accurately.


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