I continued to visit each building that once was the tallest in the world during my offseason road trip and on Sunday I wrote all about how the 40 Wall Street building, Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center were being built in the “Race into the Sky”, as popular media called it at the time, and was representative of the country’s optimism in the 1920s. I also told you that 40 Wall Street was the tallest building in the world for a month in a half until the Chrysler Building surpassed it. This happened because the Chrysler’s architect had a 125 ft tall spire secretly constructed in the lobby of the building. He waited until 40 Wall Street was completed and then on May 28, 1930 the bottom section of the spire was slowly hoisted to the top of the building’s dome. The other remaining sections of the spire were hoisted and riveted to the first one in sequential order in only 90 minutes, raising the Chrysler’s height to 1,046 feet becoming the tallest building in the world.
Other interesting fact of the Chrysler Building:
-The Chrysler Corp was headquartered here until 1950, but it never owned the building. Walter Chrysler built and financed the building himself, so his heirs could inherit it.
– various architectural details were modeled after Chrysler automobile products, such as the gargoyles looking hood ornaments of the Plymouth.
-The Chrysler Building leases the land from the college Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and is thus exempt from city taxes per an 1859 law that gave tax exemptions to sites owned by the Cooper Union.
– The site is roughly trapezoid in shape because it borders the old Boston Post Road, which predated, and ran aslant of, the Manhattan street grid.
– The architect, Van Alen, once was partners with the architect of 40 Wall Street, H. Craig Severance.
-The 71st floor observation deck closed in 1945.
Even though the Chrysler Building gave up the title of “tallest in the world” only 11 months later to the Empire State Building, I personally think it is a prettier building with all the art deco decor. I only wish you could get a tour of the building, but the best you can do is walk into the lobby unless you have business upstairs.