Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building
Chrysler Building
Record height
Tallest in the world from May 27, 1930 to April 30, 1931[I]
Preceded by 40 Wall Street
Surpassed by Empire State Building
General information
Type Office
Architectural style Art Deco
Location 405 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan, New York, United States
Construction started 1928
Completed 1930
Antenna spire 1,050 ft (320 m)
Roof 925 ft (282 m)
Top floor 899 ft (274 m)
Technical details
Floor count 77[1]
Floor area 1,195,000 sq ft (111,000 m2)
Elevator count 32
Design and construction
Owner Abu Dhabi Investment Council (90%)
Tishman Speyer (10%)
Architect William Van Alen
Chrysler Building
Chrysler Building is located in New York City
Location in New York City
Coordinates: 40°45′6.12″N 73°58′31.08″W / 40.7517°N 73.9753°W / 40.7517; -73.9753Coordinates: 40°45′6.12″N 73°58′31.08″W / 40.7517°N 73.9753°W / 40.7517; -73.9753
Architectural style: Art Deco
Governing body: Local
NRHP Reference#: 75001237
Significant dates
Added to NRHP: 1976[2]
Designated NHL: December 8, 1976[3]

The Chrysler Building is an Art Deco style skyscraper in New York City, located on the east side of Manhattan in the Turtle Bay area at the intersection of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. Standing at 1,047 feet (319 m),[5][6] it was the world's tallest building for 11 months before it was surpassed by the Empire State Building in 1931. After the destruction of the World Trade Center, it was again the second-tallest building in New York City until December 2007, when the spire was raised on the 1,200 foot (365.8 m) Bank of America Tower, pushing the Chrysler Building into third position. In addition, The New York Times Building, which opened in 2007, is exactly level with the Chrysler Building in height.[7]

The Chrysler Building is a classic example of Art Deco architecture and considered by many contemporary architects to be one of the finest buildings in New York City. In 2007, it was ranked ninth on the List of America's Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.[8] It was the headquarters of the Chrysler Corporation from 1930 until the mid-1950s, but, although the building was built and designed specifically for the car manufacturer, the corporation did not pay for the construction of it and never owned it, as Walter P. Chrysler decided to pay for it himself, so that his children could inherit it.[9]



The Chrysler Building in 1932
View from Empire State Building, 2005
Chrysler Building and eastern Midtown Manhattan

The Chrysler Building was designed by architect William Van Alen for a project of Walter P. Chrysler.[9] When the ground breaking occurred on September 19, 1928, there was an intense competition in New York City to build the world's tallest skyscraper.[10][11] Despite a frantic pace (the building was built at an average rate of four floors per week), no workers died during the construction of this skyscraper.[12]

Design beginnings

Van Alen's original design for the skyscraper called for a decorative jewel-like glass crown. It also featured a base in which the showroom windows were tripled in height and topped by 12 stories with glass-wrapped corners, creating an impression that the tower appeared physically and visually light as if floating in mid-air.[9] The height of the skyscraper was also originally designed to be 246 meters (807 ft).[12] However, the design proved to be too advanced and costly for building contractor William H. Reynolds, who disapproved of Van Alen's original plan.[13] The design and lease were then sold to Walter P. Chrysler, who worked with Van Alen and redesigned the skyscraper for additional stories; it was eventually revised to be 282 m (925 ft) tall.[12] As Walter Chrysler was the chairman of the Chrysler Corporation and intended to make the building into Chrysler's headquarters,[12] various architectural details and especially the building's gargoyles were modeled after Chrysler automobile products like the hood ornaments of the Plymouth; they exemplify the machine age in the 1920s (see below).[14][15]


Construction commenced on September 19, 1928.[12] In total, almost 400,000 rivets were used[12] and approximately 3,826,000 bricks were manually laid, to create the non-loadbearing walls of the skyscraper.[16] Contractors, builders and engineers were joined by other building-services experts to coordinate construction.

Prior to its completion, the building stood about even with a rival project at 40 Wall Street, designed by H. Craig Severance. Severance increased the height of his project and then publicly claimed the title of the world's tallest building[17] (this distinction excluded structures that were not fully habitable, such as the Eiffel Tower[18]). In response, Van Alen obtained permission for a 38-meter (125 ft) long spire[19] and had it secretly constructed inside the frame of the building. The spire was delivered to the site in four different sections.[20] On October 23, 1929, the bottom section of the spire was hoisted onto the top of the building's dome and lowered into the 66th floor of the building. The other remaining sections of the spire were hoisted and riveted to the first one in sequential order in just 90 minutes.[21]


Upon completion, May 20, 1930,[12] the added height of the spire allowed the Chrysler Building to surpass 40 Wall Street as the tallest building in the world and the Eiffel Tower as the tallest structure. It was the first man-made structure to stand taller than 1,000 feet (305 m). Van Alen's satisfaction in these accomplishments was likely muted by Walter Chrysler's later refusal to pay the balance of his architectural fee.[9] Less than a year after it opened to the public on May 27, 1931, the Chrysler Building was surpassed in height by the Empire State Building, but the Chrysler Building is still the world's tallest steel-supported brick building. As of November 2, 2011, the building's height was surpassed by the unfinished One World Trade Center at the height of 1,106 feet. [22][23]

Height comparison of buildings in New York City


The east building wall of the base out of which the tower rises runs at a slant to the Manhattan street grid, following a property line that predated the Commissioners' Plan of 1811.[24] The land on which the Chrysler Building stands was donated to The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art,[25] a private college that offers every admitted student a full tuition scholarship, in 1902. The land was originally leased to William H. Reynolds, but, when he was unable to raise money for the project, the building and the development rights to the land were acquired by Walter P. Chrysler in 1928.[25][26] 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.[9]

The ownership of the building has changed several times. The Chrysler family sold the building in 1953 to William Zeckendorf[27], and in 1957 it was purchased by real-estate moguls Sol Goldman and Alex DiLorenzo, and owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. The lobby was refurbished and the facade renovated in 1978–1979.[28] The building was owned by Jack Kent Cooke, a Canadian born, Washington, D.C. based investor, in 1979. The spire underwent a restoration that was completed in 1995. In 1998, Tishman Speyer Properties and the Travelers Insurance Group bought the Chrysler Building, at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, and the adjoining Kent Building in 1997 for about $220 million from a consortium of banks and the estate of Jack Kent Cooke. Tishman Speyer Properties had negotiated a 150 year lease on the land from Cooper Union and the college continues to own both the land under the Chrysler Building and the building itself. Cooper Union's name is on the deed.

In 2001, a 75% stake in the building management contract was sold, for US$ 300 million, to TMW, the German arm of an Atlanta-based investment fund.[29] On June 11, 2008 it was reported that the Abu Dhabi Investment Council was in negotiations to buy TMW's 75% economic interest, and a 15% interest from Tishman Speyer Properties in the building, and a share of the Trylons retail structure next door for US$ 800 million.[30] On July 9, 2008 it was announced that the transaction had been completed, and that the Abu Dhabi Investment Council was now the 90% owner of the building.[31][32]

As of 2011 InterMedia Partners, an equity firm, has its worldwide headquarters on the 48th floor.[33][34]


Detail of the Art Deco ornamentation at the crown

The Chrysler Building is considered a masterpiece of Art Deco architecture. The corners of the 61st floor are graced with eagles ; on the 31st floor, the corner ornamentation are replicas of the 1929 Chrysler radiator caps.[35] The building is constructed of masonry, with a steel frame, and metal cladding. In total, the building currently contains 3,862 windows on its facade and 4 banks of 8 elevators designed by the Otis Elevator Corporation.[12] The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.[3][36]

Crown ornamentation

The Chrysler Building is also renowned and recognized for its terraced crown. Composed of seven radiating terraced arches, Van Alen's design of the crown is a cruciform groin vault constructed into seven concentric members with transitioning setbacks, mounted up one behind another.[37] The stainless-steel cladding is ribbed and riveted in a radiating sunburst pattern with many triangular vaulted windows, transitioning into smaller segments of the seven narrow setbacks of the facade of the terraced crown. The entire crown is clad with silvery "Enduro KA-2" metal, an austenitic stainless steel developed in Germany by Krupp and marketed under the trade name "Nirosta" (a German acronym for nichtrostender Stahl, meaning "non-rusting steel").[9][38]

Crown usage

When the building first opened, it contained a public viewing gallery on the 71st floor, which was closed to the public in 1945. This floor is now the highest-occupied floor of the Chrysler Building, it was occupied by an office space management firm in 1986.[39] The private Cloud Club occupied a three-floor high space from the 66th–68th floors, but closed in the late 1970s. 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. Very narrow with low, sloped ceilings, these top stories are useful only for holding radio-broadcasting and other mechanical and electrical equipment.[12] Television station WCBS-TV (Channel 2) originally transmitted from the top of the Chrysler in the 1940s and early 1950s, before moving to the Empire State Building.[12] For many years, WPAT-FM and WTFM (now WKTU) also used the Chrysler Building as a transmission site, but they also moved to the Empire by the 1970s. There are currently no commercial broadcast stations located at the Chrysler Building.


There are two sets of lighting in the top spires and decoration. The first are the V-shaped lighting inserts in the steel of the building itself. Added later were groups of floodlights that are on mast arms directed back at the building. This allows the top of the building to be lit in many colors for special occasions. This lighting was installed by electrician Charles Londner and crew during construction.[12]

Recognition and appeal

In more recent years, the Chrysler Building has continued to be a favorite among New Yorkers. In the summer of 2005, New York's own Skyscraper Museum asked one hundred architects, builders, critics, engineers, historians, and scholars, among others, to choose their 10 favorites among 25 New York towers. The Chrysler Building, for that reason, has been shown in several movies that take place in New York. The Chrysler Building came in first place as 90% of them placed the building in their top-10 favorite buildings.[40]

ThThe Chrysler Building's distinctive profile has inspired similar skyscrapers worldwide, including One Liberty Place in Philadelphia.[41][42]

In Popular Culture

In the 1978 film, The Wiz, when Dorothy Gale and the Scarecrow sing Ease on Down the Road, there appear to be multiple Chrysler Building adjacent to each other.

In Q (film), the bird's nest is in the Chrysler Building, and the building is also where the people try to shoot down the bird.


"Art Deco in France found its American equivalent in the design of the New York skyscrapers of the 1920s. The Chrysler Building ... was one of the most accomplished essays in the style."
John Julius Norwich, in The World Atlas of Architecture
"The design, originally drawn up for building contractor William H. Reynolds, was finally sold to Walter P. Chrysler, who wanted a provocative building that would not merely scrape the sky but positively pierce it. Its 77 floors briefly making it the highest building in the world – at least until the Empire State Building was completed – it became the star of the New York skyline, thanks above all to its crowning peak. In a deliberate strategy of myth generation, Van Alen planned a dramatic moment of revelation: the entire seven-storey pinnacle, complete with special-steel facing, was first assembled inside the building, and then hoisted into position through the roof opening and anchored on top in just one and a half hours. All of a sudden it was there—a sensational fait accompli."
–Peter Gossel and Gabriele Leuthauser, in Architecture in the Twentieth Century
"One of the first uses of stainless steel over a large exposed building surface. The decorative treatment of the masonry walls below changes with every set-back and includes story-high basket-weave designs, radiator-cap gargoyles, and a band of abstract automobiles. The lobby is a modernistic composition of African marble and chrome steel."
–Elliot Willensky and Norval White, in AIA Guide to New York


See also


  1. ^ Nash, Eric Peter; McGrath, Norman (1999). Manhattan Skyscrapers. Princeton Architectural Press. p. 63. ISBN 9781568981819. 
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  3. ^ a b "Chrysler Building". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 
  4. ^ Chrysler Building at Emporis
  5. ^ "Map." Turtle Bay Association. Retrieved on January 25, 2009.
  6. ^ "The Chrysler Building –". Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Emporis Data – See Tallest buildings Ranking". June 15, 2009. Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  8. ^ "". Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Pierpont, Claudia Roth (November 18, 2002). "The Silver Spire: How two men's dreams changed the skyline of New York". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  10. ^ Emporis GmbH. "Emporis Data "...a celebrated three-way race to become the tallest building in the world."". Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  11. ^ "The Manhattan Company –; "...'race' to erect the tallest tower in the world."". Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k University of Wisconsin–Madison; School of Engineering – The Chrysler Building[dead link]
  13. ^ Emporis GmbH. "– Chrysler Building". Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Chrysler Building". Retrieved October 11, 2008. 
  15. ^ Emporis Data
  16. ^ Stravitz 2002, Pages 54, 158, image caption no.39
  17. ^ Emporis Data – See source no.4 line 4; "Briefly held the world's tallest title until it was eclipsed by the spire of Chrysler Building."
  18. ^ CTBUH – Criteria of World's Tallest Building
  19. ^ Stravitz 2002, Page 161. Image caption no.39
  20. ^ Stravitz 2002, Page 161, image caption no.54
  21. ^ Stravitz 2002, Pages xiii (Paragraph 10) and 161. Image caption no.39
  22. ^ "The World's Tallest Brick Building –". Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  23. ^ "A view from Above – The Chrysler Building". Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  24. ^ Noted in Kevin Walsh, Forgotten New York: The Ultimate Urban Explorer's Guide to All Five Boroughs, 2006:171.
  25. ^ a b "Cooper Union and Chrysler Building". September 15, 2004. Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  26. ^ Gregor, Alison (February 13, 2008). "Smart Land Deals as a Cornerstone of Free Tuition". The New York Times. Retrieved October 23, 2010. 
  27. ^ Bagli, Charles V. (November 25, 1997). "A New Owner To Take Over An Old Classic". The New York Times. Retrieved October 26, 2011. 
  28. ^ Lewis, Michael J. (June 19, 2005). "An enduring hood ornament". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  29. ^ Bagli, Charles V. (March 5, 2001). "German Group Buys Stake In Skyscraper". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
  31. ^ Bagli, Charles V. (July 10, 2008). "Abu Dhabi Buys 90% Stake in Chrysler Building". The New York Times. Retrieved June 8, 2009. 
  32. ^ "New York's Chrysler Building Bought by Abu Dhabi Fund". 
  33. ^ "Contact Us." InterMedia Partners. Retrieved on October 18, 2011. "InterMedia Advisors, LLC 405 Lexington Avenue, 48th Floor New York, NY 10174"
  34. ^ "Toon for sale?" Peterlee Mail. Friday July 4, 2008. Retrieved on October 20, 2011. "Ashley is said to have told private equity investors InterMedia Partners - based in the swanky Chrysler Building -[...]"
  35. ^ "1926 Chrysler Radiator Cap Used On The Chrysler Building". December 13, 2006. Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  36. ^ Pitts, Carolyn (August 1976) (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Chrysler Building. National Park Service. Retrieved May 3, 2009  and Accompanying 1 photo, exterior, undatedPDF (164 KB)
  37. ^ "The City – Chrysler Building by AIA Carter B. Horsley". Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  38. ^ "Article: Trade names associated with stainless steels". Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  39. ^ Michaelis, David (March 31, 2002). "Inside the Needle: The Chrysler Building Gets Lit by David Michaelis". MrBellersNeighborhood. Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  40. ^ Dunlap, David W. (September 1, 2005). "In a City of Skyscrapers, Which Is the Mightiest of the High? Experts Say It's No Contest". The New York Times. Retrieved April 8, 2008. 
  41. ^ Goldberger, Paul (November 15, 1987). "Giving New Life to Philadelphia's Skyline". The New York Times: paragraph 6, line 4. Retrieved September 27, 2010. "The tower resembles nothing so much as the Chrysler Building..." 
  42. ^ University of Wisconsin–Madison; School of Engineering – One Liverty Place; Slide 18, Building Materials[dead link]
Further reading
  • Stravitz, David (2002). The Chrysler Building: Creating a New York Icon Day by Day. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 1568983549. 
  • Terranova, Antonio; Manferto, Valeria (2003). Skyscrapers. Vercelli, Italy: White Star. ISBN 8880952307. 

External links

Preceded by
Eiffel Tower
World's tallest structure
Succeeded by
Empire State Building
Preceded by
40 Wall Street
Tallest building in the world
Tallest building in the United States

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