Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building, located at 42nd and Lexington, in midtown Manhattan, is an elegant example of Art Deco, "Jazz Age" architecture. It was just briefly the tallest structure in the world, but the 77-story building is still widely regarded among New York's most lovely architecture.

History

By the late 1920s, the Chrysler Corporation was the nation's second largest auto manufacturer. Started by the dashing, Walter Chrysler a decade before, the company had quickly grown into a multi-million dollar company, largely on the success of its Desoto and Plymouth lines. Unlike his Detroit-based competitors, Chrysler wished to base his company in New York City and began shopping for a site.

Chrysler found his building, plans, and architect in a deal where he acquired the proposed building and site for an 84-year lease from cash-strapped developer William H. Reynolds. Walter Chrysler embraced the project whole-heartedly, and was determined to make his building the tallest in the world. He had architect William Van Alen redraw the plans to achieve this goal. Several buildings, then under construction, were competing for the title, including the nearby Severance Building (now the Trump Building).

Construction on the Chrysler Building began in 1928 at a break-neck speed of four stories per week. At one time, over 2000 workers toiled seven days a week on the project. Van Alen's "tour de force" was a secret 185-foot stainless steel spire he had made in Germany by Krupps. The spire was hidden in the elevator shaft until the last minute, after it was too late for the neighboring buildings to change their plans. The Chrysler building was completed in October of 1929, the largest structure in the world. It was a title the building held for just six months, when it was overtaken by the Empire State Building.

Walter Chrysler never paid William Van Alen for his work on the building, accusing him of taking bribes from subcontractors. Chrysler's accusations ruined Van Alen's career and the creator of one of the century's most important buildings faded into obscurity. No biographies have ever been written about the architect and very little is known of him.

Today, the Chrysler Building is owned by real estate developers, TMW and Tishman Speyer Properties.

The Building

The Chrysler building stands 1046 feet tall from the ground to the top of the spire. The elegant building has 77 floors, the top seven of which have rounded ceilings and are only suited for radio broadcast stations or similar offices.

The building is fashioned to resemble the ornamental style of Chrysler's autos of the era. In addition to the reflective stainless steel spire, the building is adorned with eagles, designed after the 1929 Chrysler hood ornaments, and corner medallions, designed after the 1929 Chrysler radiator caps.

Chrysler Building Trivia

Among the interesting details about the Chrysler Building are:

· There are 32 elevators in the building
· Over 2000 workers helped build the Chrysler Building, adding an average of four floors each week.
· The building has 3262 windows.
· Over 1.2 million square feet of marble was used in the building's interiors.

The Chrysler Building in Pop Culture

The Chrysler Building has appeared in numerous books and movies. Among them are the "Spiderman" comic book series and the movies, "Armageddon," "Annie," and "Deep Impact."

Visiting the Chrysler Building

Over four million people visit the Chrysler Building each year. The 71st floor observation deck and the 1930s era speakeasy, "The Cloud Club," have been closed for decades, but visitors can still enjoy the expansive red African marble lobby and its recently restored mural, depicting industry and commerce of the 1920s. Of course, after you've left the building and are a block or two away, don't forget to look up; the Chrysler Building's best feature is its glistening, Art Deco top.

Location: at 405 Lexington Avenue, New York City, New York
Phone: 212-682-3070

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