Chrysler Building is a 77-storey skyscraper, deemed to be one of the most admired landmarks in New York. It is situated on the east side of Manhattan in the Turtle Bay area. Once the world’s tallest structure, the Chrysler Building was also one of the most decorated offices in the world. We decided to round up 12 Chrysler building facts.1
One year of glory
The Chrysler Building was originally constructed with the goal of building the tallest skyscraper in New York City. The construction went at a break-neck pace of four floors per week, in an effort to surpass the competition from 40 Wall Street. In fact, the builders of 40 Wall Street briefly thought that they’d won the competition and declared victory, before the Chrysler Building secretly added its 186 foot spire. By then it was undeniable that it was the tallest building in the city, country and even the world. As they toasted their success, they knew that their glory would be sadly short lived. The Empire State Building was creeping its way ever skyward, and by 1931 it had relegated the Chrysler Building to 2nd place.96134315
Originally, the Chrysler Building was to be the Reynolds Building, a project of real estate developer and former New York State Senator William H. Reynolds. Prior to his involvement in planning the building, Reynolds was best known for developing Coney Island’s Dreamland amusement park. When the amusement park was destroyed by fire in 1911, Reynolds turned his attention to Manhattan real estate, where he set out to build the tallest building in the world.3
Building’s foundation reach 69-foot-deep (21 m). A total of 105,000,000 pounds (48,000,000 kg) of rock and 36,000,000 pounds (16,000,000 kg) of soil was excavated for the foundation, equal to 63% of the future building’s weight.
Contrary to popular belief, the Chrysler Corporation was never involved in the construction or ownership of the Chrysler Building, although it was built and designed for the corporation and served as its headquarters until the mid-1950s. It was a project of Walter P. Chrysler for his children. In his autobiography, Chrysler wrote that he wanted to erect the building “so that his sons would have something to be responsible for”.5
Art Deco masterpiece
The Chrysler Building is constructed of masonry with a steel frame, as well as a metal cladding, and contains 3,862 exterior windows. The building is considered a leading example of Art Deco architecture. The exterior of the building has about fifty ornaments protruding from the building’s corners on five different floors in a way similar to the gargoyles of Gothic cathedrals. The corners of the 61st floor are graced with eagles, (a nod to the bald eagle, the national bird of the United States), while the 31st-floor contains gargoyles and replicas of the 1929 Chrysler radiator caps at its corners.6
Lobby to impress
The triangular-shaped lobby is regarded as a paragon of the Art Deco style, with clear influences of German Expressionism. Chrysler wanted the design to impress other architects and automobile magnates, so he imported various materials without giving consideration to the extra costs incurred.
The lobby has dim lighting that gives it a somewhat subdued quality, although the appliqués of the lamps are striking and iconic. Both combine to create an intimate atmosphere and act to highlight the place. The lobby also contains four elevator banks, each with a different design.
The ceiling contains a 110-by-67-foot mural named “Transport and Human Endeavor”, commissioned by Edward Trumbull in 1930. The mural’s theme is “energy and man’s application of it to the solution of his problems”, and it pays homage to the Golden Age of Aviation and the Machine Age.7
There are 32 elevators in the skyscraper, clustered into groups of six or eight. At the time of opening, 28 of these elevators were for passenger use. Each bank serves different floors within the building, with several “express” elevators going from the lobby to a few landings in between, while “local” elevators connect the landings with the floors above these intermediate landings. As per Walter Chrysler’s wishes, the elevators were designed to run at a rate of 900 feet per minute (270 m/min), despite the 700-foot-per-minute (210 m/min) speed restriction enforced in all city elevators at the time.
The private Cloud Club formerly occupied the 66th through 68th floors. It opened in July 1930 with some three hundred members, all wealthy males who formed the city’s elite. Its creation was spurred by Texaco’s wish for a proper restaurant for its executives prior to renting fourteen floors in the building. The Cloud Club was a compromise between William van Alen’s modern style and Walter Chrysler’s stately and traditional tastes. A member had to be elected, and if accepted, paid an initial fee of $200, plus a $150 to $300 annual fee.9
Obstructed celestial view
From the building’s opening until 1945, it contained an observation deck on the 71st floor, which was called “Celestial”. For fifty cents per person, visitors could go around its entire circumference through a corridor with vaulted ceilings painted with celestial motifs and small hanging glass planets. The center of the observatory contained the toolbox that Walter P. Chrysler used at the beginning of his career as a mechanic. This observatory had an area of 3,900 square feet (360 m2), and according to a contemporary brochure, offered views of up to 100 miles (160 km) on a clear day; but it was unpopular because of the small triangular windows that were part of the design of the crown, which created strange angles that made it difficult to see the city.10
Crown for The King
Above the 71st floor, the stories of the building are designed mostly for exterior appearance, functioning mainly as landings for the stairway to the spire and do not contain office space. They are very narrow, have low and sloping roofs, and are only used to house radio transmitters and other mechanical and electrical equipment. For example, the 73rd floor houses the motors of the elevators and a 15,000-US-gallon (57,000 L) water tank, of which 3,500 US gallons (13,000 L) are reserved for extinguishing fires.11
Best Supporting Skyscrapper
The Chrysler Building can be seen in numerous films, but almost never appears as a main setting in these films. James Sanders, an architect and author, jokingly says that “the Award for Best Supporting Skyscraper” should go to the Chrysler Building. The building was supposed to be featured in the 1933 film King Kong, but only makes a cameo appearance at the end of the movie, since the producers decided to depict the Empire State Building, instead, for most of the film. The Chrysler Building notably appears in the background of The Wiz (1978); as the setting of much of Q – The Winged Serpent (1982); in the initial credits of The Shadow of the Witness (1987); and during or after apocalyptic events in Independence Day (1996), Armageddon (1998), Godzilla (1998), Deep Impact (1998), and A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001).The building also appears in other films, such as Spider-Man (2002), Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), Two Weeks Notice (2002), and Men in Black 3 (2012).12
In a 2001 survey, architectural critics ranked the Chrysler as the third best building in the country. In the summer of 2005, the Skyscraper Museum in Lower Manhattan asked 100 architects, builders, critics, engineers, historians, and scholars, among others, to choose their 10 favorites among 25 of the city’s towers. The Chrysler Building came in first place, as 90% of respondents placed the building among their top 10 favorite buildings. In 2007, the building ranked ninth among 150 buildings in the AIA’s List of America’s Favorite Architecture.