Chrysler Building

The most recognizable Art Deco silhouette in the city, it was the tallest in the world for a brief eleven months.

The Chrysler Building tower
The Chrysler Building tower Photo credit: Paul Seibert Photography

Location: Lexington Ave @ 42nd Street
Built: 1930
Architect: William Van Allen

With its glistening spire and glorious triangle-shaped crown, the Chrysler Building is considered by many to be one of the finest buildings in the world. An iconic part of the New York City skyline, it was built as the headquarters of the Chrysler Corporation as well as the company’s main advertisement. Carrying the automobile theme, it shines like a newly bought auto and features winged Chrysler radiator caps on the 31st-floor, and copies of the 1929 Chrysler eagle hood ornaments on the 61st floor.

Chrysler hood ornaments on the 61st floor.
Eagle, Chrysler hood ornament, on the 61st floor. Photo credit: Paul Seibert Photography

When Walter Chrysler hired architect William Van Allen to build a new house for his Chrysler Corporation headquarters, he intended for it to be the tallest building in the world. Locked in dead heat competition with his ex-partner-turned-rival H. Craig Severance, who was working downtown at the exact same time on another would-be tallest-in-the-world edifice, 40 Wall Street, Van Allen won!

The two rivals closely watched each other’s progress and Severance, after discovering the final proposed height of the Chrysler Building, added 2 feet to his creation and declared victory. However, Van Allen was secretly putting together a 185-foot spire inside of the building. To the surprise of passers-by, the glorious spire appeared on top of the Chrysler Building seemingly out of nowhere in the space of just 90 minutes, making the Art Deco beauty the tallest in the world.

The Chrysler held on to the title for 11 months, only to be dwarfed by the Empire State Building. Nevertheless, it still holds the honor of being the first-ever building to rise over 1,000 feet, and remains the tallest brick building in the world!

Another unofficial record has to do with the fact that Walter P. Chrysler had a private apartment and office on the top floor. He proudly claimed that he owned the highest toilet in the world!

Like all skyscrapers, the Chrysler has a steel frame, but unlike most of them, it’s clad in masonry. Its 3 thousand tons of steel are covered with almost 4 million bricks!

For years the building was not accessible to the public, short of taking a peek at the stunning Art Deco lobby made of red Moroccan marble. The “Celestial” observation deck and The Cloud Club, a private club once occupying the 66th through 68th floors, were replaced with private offices long ago.

Up until 2020, the only way to get inside the Chrysler Building for anyone who doesn’t work there was to visit a dentist on the 69th Floor. That dental chair allowed the best possible views ever seen in the whole history of dentistry.

The Chrysler Building has been bought for $151 million by Aby Rosen’s RFR Realty with the plans to restore the edifice to its former glory and make it accessible to the public again.  As part of plans to overhaul the iconic Art Deco skyscraper, an observation deck is returning to the Chrysler Building. The new deck will be on the 61st floor, allowing people to be able to share spectacular vistas with the famed Art Deco eagles.

Statistics:

77 floors, 319.5m (1048 feet).
Almost 30,000 tons of steel.
Over 3 million bricks.
Cost: $ 20,000,000.

The top of the Chrysler building
The top of the Chrysler building and the roof of the Pan Am building, foreground, in Manhattan are seen above the fog on 13 February 1984 Photograph: Dave Pickoff/AP

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