Fascinating History of the Chrysler Building

New York’s Skyscraper Museum started a poll in 2005 to find out New York City’s favorite Skyscraper. Hundreds of architects, engineers, construction personnel took part in the survey and 90% chose the Chrysler Building. 

Like a jewel in the sky, the Chrysler Building stands tall as one of the most iconic landmarks in New York City. You will find it on most of the postcards and every tour guide’s route list. The building is located on 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, a part of Manhattan you cannot miss. 

Initial Design of the Building

The original concept of Chrysler building came with the partnership of architect William Van Alen and contractor William H Reynolds. William Van Allen envisioned an elaborate structure that is unlike any in the world. Van Alen’s design consisted of a diamond crown. The artsy crown was to have showroom windows with 12 story parts of glass. So, when the sun shines on it, it would reflect on the glass and show a sparkling crown in the sky. 

Unfortunately, Van Alen’s designs were too expensive for the contractor. William H. Reynolds then sold the design and construction lease to the famous industrialist Walter P. Chrysler. The Chrysler Corporation was one of the biggest automobile manufacturers in America. 

Chrysler’s Ambitions

A businessman by profession, Chrysler spotted a great opportunity in this construction project. The 42nd street area was developing, and Grand Central was close by. There was lots of space available for constructing his next big masterpiece and bring the spotlight back to 42nd East.

Van Alen’s overly ambitious designs were not impressive enough for Chrysler. He asked the architect to redesign his structure and add more height to the building. The duo wanted to make this building the tallest in the world. 

The Quest to Become the Tallest

The idea of building the tallest building was one of Chrysler’s ambitions. He was a successful businessman paying for the building with his own money. To him, it made sense to create something that would last an eternity under his name. Chrysler designed a huge office suite for himself in the building, with exquisite rooms. He specifically asked the builders to make sure that his toilet was the highest in New York City. It was a quest to be on top of the busiest cities in the world. 

The plans for adding height to the building were kept a secret between the owner and the architect. That is because another building was under construction, set to become the tallest in the world. The 42nd Wall Street building was to be 925 feet tall and steal the title. 

When Chrysler got to know about the height, he called Van Alen for a secret project. Chrysler building was 85 feet shorter than 42nd Wall Street. The duo planned to make a 186 feet long spire and hide it in the building. While the folks at 42nd Wall Street were celebrating their milestone, the spire was released in the air, making Chrysler building the tallest in the world. Chrysler’s title lasted for 11 months, and then the Empire State Building took over. It may not be the tallest building, but Chrysler Building is one of the best looking to date. 

Chrysler’s Lobby

The lobby of the Chrysler Building is one of the most expensive places in New York City. The constructors did not leave things to the imagination when working in the lobby. When you enter the building, you will see a massive mural on the ceiling. The art and design of this mural pay tribute to the builders and the machine age. It also pays tribute to Airplanes and the glorious age of flight. 

Walls of the lobby are made with African Marble. It is like walking into history itself, where every chapter complements the other. Dull lighting around the hall was set on purpose to create a classy, commanding mood when you enter. 

What You Get Outside?

Besides the ‘gargoyles’ above, the external area of the Chrysler Building gives you a view of its 185-foot spire. The creator of the building stated that its inspiration spanned from a car radiator grill, whose prototype was sold to ‘Walter B.’ More modifications were made to the structure to signify the elegance of the automobile. The 31st floor of the Chrysler building features winged silver ornaments for a reason – these were also utilized as radiator caps on some vehicles. Also, the building’s crown features 7 arches that showcase a pattern similar to that of a sunburst. 

Other Historical Facts About Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building was ahead of its time in both construction and design. Van Alen left no stone unturned in creating an artistic landmark. Here are some more construction facts about this beautiful structure:

  • The building has 77 floors and 34 elevators
  • It was built in $15 million 
  • 391,831 rivets were included during construction 
  • It is called Chrysler Building not because of the business but after the man himself, Walter Chrysler
  • The spire of this building weighs 27 tons
  • Many parts of the building represent Chrysler’s automobile business. For example, the stone gargoyles represent the hood of the Plymouth by Chrysler Corporation.
  • There are about 4 million bricks in the building, all laid by hand.
  • The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in the year 1976
  • There was once an elite club on the building, with members like Conde Nast and boxer Gene Tunney. It closed down in the 1970’s economic crisis. 
  • The lobby of the Chrysler Building contains the world’s first digital clock


That’s it. You now know everything there is to know about the iconic Chrysler Building. Now it’s time to find a commute! Taking a taxi from any place in Manhattan is a cool option, but for a more affordable choice, consider taking the 5,6, 4 or 7 subway train to Grand Central. The east side of the Park Avenue should be the exit, then go to Lexington Avenue and enjoy. As an insider tip, we also recommend seeing the Chrysler building from above by visiting Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building. Off you go.