Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building is one of the tallest skyscrapers in the United States. It is also one of the oldest skyscrapers, dating all the way back to the 1930s.

The building is located in the Midtown Manhattan section of the New York City, a neighborhood which is also home to a number of other iconic skyscrapers. The building has held various records over the course of its history and remains one of the most enduring architectural icons of the United States.

Background

During the 1920s following the end of World War I, United States saw a rapid economic boom. This led to an increase in the population of Midtown Manhattan so that it soon became the most populous metropolitan area. To cater to this growth in population, many skyscrapers were erected in Manhattan at the time.

Among them was the Chrysler Building. The Chrysler Building was constructed by Walter Chrysler who owned the famous car manufacturing company, Chrysler. At the time, his company was the third-largest car manufacturing company in the country.

Chrysler-Building-view-from-42nd-Street

Chrysler Building street view from 42nd Street

Construction

Construction on the Chrysler Building began in 1928. Before actual construction could begin, the design of the building was revised a number of times. Walter Chrysler wanted the building to embody the modern spirit of the times. After the foundation work had been done, the actual construction began in early 1929. By September, 1929, the building had completed.

The Use of Steel

The Chrysler Building is noted for its extensive use of stainless steel. In fact, the main frame of the building was constructed entirely from 18-8 steel which comprises of 18% chromium and 8% nickel. This was the first large-scale use of the 18-8 steel in the United States. The ‘permanently bright metal’ proved vital in giving the building its iconic look. It also played an instrumental role in creating an architectural style that combined traditional with modern materials.

Race into the Sky

As mentioned above, the 1920s marked the construction of a number of tall skyscrapers in the New York City. Many of these skyscrapers vied against each other to be the tallest building in the world. The Chrysler Building was also a part of this race. The main competition was between Woolworth Building, the 40 Wall Street building and the Chrysler Building.

This race became popularly known as the ‘Race into the Sky’. The Woolworth Building initially held the distinction of being the tallest building but 40 Wall Street superseded it. In October, 1929, the architect of Chrysler Building added a spire at the top of the building, effectively making it the tallest building in the world. It held this distinction for nearly 11 months before the Empire State Building became the tallest building.

History

The Chrysler Building was financed by the personal wealth of Walter Chrysler, so it remained in the ownership of his family. In 1953, the Chrysler family sold the building to William Zeckendorf for $18 million. By the 1970s, the ownership of the building had transferred to Massachusetts Mutual.

In 1976, the building was designated as a National Historic Landmark. Two years later, it was also designated as the New York City Landmark. An extensive renovation of the building was done for a sizable expense of $23 million in 1978. More recently, the building was owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council. In 2019, the Council planned to sell the building to another owner.

Architecture

The architecture of the Chrysler Building stands it apart from many skyscrapers in the Midtown Manhattan area. The building is known for its Art Deco architecture which makes extensive use of stainless steel and metal construction coupled with masonry.

It stands 1046 feet tall with a total of 77 floors topped with a spire. The exterior of the building is noted for several ornamental features such as Gothic gargoyles, steel eagles and radiator caps. The building makes extensive use of brick masonry and is considered the tallest brick building in the world to this day.

Chrysler Building Crown

The Crown of the Chrysler Building is one of its most distinguishing features. This crown comprises of seven radiating arches, one behind the other. The crown is constructed using mostly stainless steel and has a number of triangular glass vaults.

As a result, the crown has a cascading effect, with a large arched base which transitions into a narrow arch as its rises above. The triangular vaults of the building are popularly recognized, especially when they are lit at night to highlight the stunning facade of the crown.

The Spire

The Spire of the Chrysler Building was originally assembled in secret and erected all of a sudden within a span of 90 minutes. This was done to earn the distinction of being the tallest building the world. The total height of the spire is around 125 feet or 38 meters. The needle spire is the pinnacle of the iconic crown of the building.

The Lobby and Elevators

The Art Deco style, for which the Chrysler Building is known, can be most clearly seen in the lobby and elevators of the building. The lobby is designed to produce a grand yet modern effect. On the lobby ceiling is a sizable mural while the walls feature African red granite. The lobby itself is shaped like a triangle and is dimly lit which serves to accentuate its features.

The elevators of the building feature an equally exquisite Art Deco interior. The building has a total of 32 elevators, many of which were originally designed to run at a speed of 900 feet per minute. The elevator doors are constructed from metal and covered with stunningly beautiful exotic woods. When the doors close and the elevators are traveling, they produce a visual illusion that is quite enchanting.

Chrysler Building Records and Rankings

The Chrysler Building held the record of being the tallest building in the world for nearly 11 months. It had this record right after its construction before the Empire State Building superseded it. The building still remains the tallest brick building in the world. Within the New York City, Chrysler Building is the 7th tallest. Within United States, it is ranked as the 14th tallest building. Globally, the building is ranked as the 92nd tallest building in the world.

Learn More about the Chrysler Building in New York with Wikipedia

The Chrysler Building: Creating a New York Icon Day by Day Hardcover – October 1, 2002