The Chrysler Building: History, Architecture, and the Best Spots to Admire It

Traveling with Alice
Chrysler Building, New YorkKevin Chinchilla/Unsplash

Among the skyscrapers that make up the New York skyline, the Chrysler Building is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable. Its distinctive spire helped to get it elected as "The most beautiful skyscraper in the Big Apple" in 2005.

The Chrysler Building entrance is located at 405 Lexington Ave, between 42nd and 43rd streets.

The Chrysler Building history and architecture

Designed by architect William Van Alen, it was inaugurated in 1930, and with its 319 meters, it was the tallest building in the world.

At that time, there was a sort of race for constructing the higher building in the city. Particularly famous was the long-distance battle between Craig Severance, who was supervising the construction of a skyscraper at 40 Wall Street, and William Van Alen, who, thanks to the spire built in secret inside the Chrysler Building, managed to win this unique competition.

Unfortunately, his supremacy did not last long because the construction of the Empire State Building, completed only a few months later, snatched the record from him.

The building is based on a quadrangular plan of 31 floors. Above this structure, there is an intermediate module that reaches up to the sixty-first floor. The skyscraper then continues with a smaller quadrangular module and with the characteristic stainless steel spire that ends with a lightning rod spire.

Many parts of the skyscraper were built to pay homage to the well-known automotive industry, as requested by Walter Chrysler.

The most obvious example is the spire made of stainless steel, which shines by reflecting the sunlight, adorned with a particular motif intended to recall Chrysler cars' radiator grille.

But the references to the automotive industry are not limited to the highest part of the building. In the corners of the 31st floor, it's possible to admire reproductions of radiator caps. At the same time, along the façade, an ornamental motif represents the wheels of the machines with their respective mudguards.

Other decorative elements that have become very popular in the collective imagination are the eight zoomorphic figures, which protrude from the corners of the highest part of the building towards the outside. They were built to represent eight stylized eagle heads and were intended to be a tribute to the symbol of America and the Chrysler Imperial.
Leonard Regazzo/Unsplash

The lobby of the Chrysler Building

The lobby is the only area where tourists are allowed and where they can admire an architectural masterpiece.

Entering through an imposing hexagonal-shaped black marble portal, you will find yourself in the Art Deco style hall that was meant to be a car showroom.

Here you can admire 8 of the 32 elevators of the building, featuring inlaid wooden doors.

Raising your head, you will admire the ceiling entirely painted by Edward Rumball 110-by-67-foot (34 by 20 m) mural named "Transport and Human Endeavor" commissioned in 1930.

The mural pictures several silver planes, including the Spirit of St. Louis piloted by Charles Lindbergh flying over the Atlantic, furnaces of incandescent steel, and the building itself.

A wall panel is dedicated to the workers who participated in the Chrysler Building construction: clinchers, surveyors, masons, carpenters, plasterers, and builders. Fifty different figures were modeled after real-life workers.

The walls are entirely covered with opulent red marble slabs, and the longitudinal lamps are finely decorated.

The lobby was restored in 1978 with marble, granite, and chromed steel implementations.
Triplecaña, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Best spots to get the best view of the Chrysler Building

Since the access to the building is limited to those who work in it, once you have admired the hall, all you have to do is find the best spot outside to take a clear view of the building as a whole.

The best places to take a picture of the Chrysler Building are the intersection between Vanderbilt Ave and 42nd street. You can also find nice spots to admire it along Lexington Avenue or at Bryant Park.

Another option is to climb up to the Empire State Building observatories and enjoy the aerial view of both Downtown Manhattan and the entire area surrounding the Chrysler skyscraper.

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