It’s one of the oldest and most iconic skyscrapers in New York City, and in this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about the Chrysler Building, one of the most famous landmarks in New York.
Related: Check out some of the most iconic skyscrapers in the world.
Interesting facts about the Chrysler Building
1. It’s located a block away from Grand Central Terminal
The Chrysler building is located in the Turtle Bay neighborhood on the East side of Manhattan just near Midtown in New York City.
That’s just a couple of blocks away from New York’s iconic Grand Central Terminal on the intersection of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue.
2. The city was booming in the 1920s
The 1920s was a period of enormous economic growth, which translated itself into large investments in infrastructure and real estate. This period was referred to as the “Roaring Twenties.”
On top of that, the New York metropolitan area had overtaken London as the most populous city in the world in this decade which further fueled investments in lucrative real estate projects by speculators.
3. It used to be the tallest building in the world
The boom in real estate brought about a special kind of race. Several developers were competing against each other to construct the tallest building in the world.
The Chrysler Building was in this “1920s race” and was the tallest building for exactly 11 months with a height of 1,046 feet (318.9 m). It was eventually surpassed by the Empire State Building which is 1,454 feet (443.2 m) high.
4. It wasn’t meant to be called the “Chrysler Building”
The original developer wasn’t Walter Chrysler, the owner of the third-largest car manufacturing company in the United States at that time. The original idea for the building and the person creating the development plan was William H. Reynolds.
This means that the original name of the Chrysler Building was actually the “Reynolds Building” and not the “Chrysler Building.”
5. The original developer once owned one of New York’s favorite spots
Reynolds used to own “Dreamland Amusement Park,” an amusement park that opened its doors in 1904 on New York’s iconic recreational neighborhood “Coney Island.”
Dreamland unfortunately burned down in 1911 which gave Reynolds the idea to turn his interest to Manhattan. After all, real estate developers were making tons of cash there in this period.
This means that without the tragic event on Coney Island in 1911, the Chrysler Building might have never been built!
6. The plans were changed multiple times
Reynolds hired architect William Van Alen in 1927 with the goal of designing the tallest building in the world. Van Alen once studied at the “École des Beaux-Arts” in Paris so he as familiar with the Art Deco style which was immensely popular in this period.
The original plan of the building only had 40 stories. Because of the “Race into the Sky,” as it was dubbed by the media at that time, the plans were changed multiple times. First to 54 stories, then to 63 stories and finally to 65 stories.
This would officially make it the tallest building in the world, which was exactly what Reynolds was after.
7. This is how the building got its name
So the plan was ready and Reynolds submitted it for approval in April 1928. Less than 6 months later, the groundbreaking of the “Reynolds Building” took place on September 19, 1928.
It’s clear that Reynolds had been caught up in this futile race to build the tallest building in the world and that he didn’t have enough money to complete the construction, even though it had already started.
because of this, he sold the lease on the plot and the plans to Walter Chrysler for $2 million on October 15, 1928.
Chrysler was equally interested in building the tallest building in the world but was much better off financially to actually complete it.
8. A sneaky trick was used in an attempt to be the tallest
The race to become the tallest building was serious. The Woolworth Building was the initial target as it was the tallest building in the world since 1913 with a height of 792 feet (241 m).
At the end of the 1920s, 40 Wall Street and the Empire State Building, along with the Chrysler Building, were all modifying their plans to become the tallest building in the world upon completion.
The Chrysler Building’s architect, William Van Alen, acquired permission for a 125-foot-long (38 m) spire which was brought to the site in 4 pieces and secretly installed on October 23, 1929.
9. The secret trick didn’t work
Shortly after the news about the trick used by Walter Chrysler and his architect to make their tower a bit higher with a spire, the Empire State Building’s developers changed their plans once again.
They even went as far as buying additional plots of land next to the tower so they could lay a foundation to support 5 more floors.
On top of their building, they also built a spire but one that had a purpose, as it as intended as a docking station for zeppelins.
10. New York hasn’t received a dollar in tax from Chrysler
One of the most interesting facts about the Chrysler Building is that hasn’t earned the city of New York a single dollar in tax since its opening!
The reason? The land is actually owned by the “Cooper Union” and represents an endowment for the college. Because of a special law that dates back to 1859, the building’s owner pays the Cooper Union directly, not the city.
Cooper Union is tax-exempt and has upheld its tax exemption since it acquired the land the building sits on in 1902.
11. It still held some records at its opening
The Chrysler Building was officially opened on May 27, 1930, and a plaque was unveiled in its lobby which reads: “in recognition of Mr. Chrysler’s contribution to civic advancement.”
Even though it was already clear at that time that the building wouldn’t hold the title as the tallest building in the world for too long, it was still the first building to rise above 1,000 feet (300 m) high.
It surpassed 40 Wall Street to become the tallest building, and became the tallest structure in the world as well, surpassing the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The final record was that the top floor of the building became taller than the highest point in 5 states!
12. The Chrysler Corporation has no involvement in the building
Many people would assume that the Chrysler Corporation was involved in the construction of the building and even owned it.
This is incorrect. The entire project was in the name of Walter Chrysler himself, and even though the Chrysler Corporation had offices in the building and even its headquarters until the mid-1950s, it didn’t have any involvement or stake in it.
How did Walter Chrysler define the project?
As something for his children, so his “sons would have something to be responsible for,” as he wrote in his autobiography.
Quick facts about the Chrysler Building
13. The Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world from May 27, 1930, to May 1, 1931, until it was surpassed by the Empire State Building.
14. It has a roof height of 925 feet (282 m) and a top floor height of 899 feet (274). The height at the tip is 1,046 feet (318.9 m).
15. The building has a total of 77 floors, 32 elevators, and a total floor area of 1,196,958 square feet (111,201.0 sq m).
16. It has been declared as a New York City landmark in 1978 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
17. Of the numerous buildings that were constructed in the Art Deco style in New York in that period, the Chrysler Building is seen as the epitome of this architectural style.
18. The excavation was a huge endeavor as 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 foundations. That’s about 63% of the entire building’s weight.
19. Not a single worker died during the construction of the Chrysler Building, as opposed to 5 people passing away during the construction of the Empire State Building.
20. The Chrysler Building is still the world’s tallest steel-supported brick building. A total of 391,881 rivets were used, and over 3,826,000 bricks were manually laid.
21. The pace in which construction moved forward as incredible as almost 4 floors were completed on average every single week.
22. The Race into the Sky ended with the Empire State Building, one of the few projects of this scale that were completed shortly after the stock market crash of 1929. Another one was the Rockefeller Center which was even constructed during the worst period of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
23. The original reception of the building was mixed. Some sources referred to it as “the epitome of modern business life,” and “an expression of the intense activity and vibrant life of our day.” Negative reviews mentioned it had “no compelling, organic idea,” and one source even compared it as “an upended swordfish.”
24. The building had a lot more tenants than the mockingly called “Empty State Building,” as over 70% of the floor area as rented out by 1935.
25. In 1952, an annex building with 32 stories as constructed and is now referred to as the “Chrysler Building East.” A Sky bridge connecting the two building’s 7th floors was built in 1959.
26. The building has seen new owners numerous times. The latest owners are reportedly Aby Rosen’s RFR Holding LLC, in a joint venture with the Austrian SIGNA Group.
27. The previous owners, the Abu Dhabi Investment Council and Tishman Speyer (90% and 10% respectively), sold the building for a steep discount. The Abu Dhabi group bought their share in the building for $800 million USD in 2008 and recently sold it for just $150 million USD.
28. The building contains 3,862 exterior windows and is decorated with numerous steel ornaments, including steel eagles on the 61st floor which refers to the United States’ national bird.
29. Walter Chrysler used to occupy the 69th and 70th floor of his building as a private residence. This was later converted and is now home to a dental clinic. Remarkably, the floors still contain the original bathroom and Chrysler’s gym (which he hardly used).
30. The city’s elite used to gather in a private club referred to as the “Cloud Club.” This was located on the 66th, 67th, and 68th floors. It was extremely luxurious with marble staircases, granite columns, and loads of art deco ornaments. The club was eventually closed in the late 1970s.
31. The crown of the Chrysler Building is its most prominent feature. Its decorations were actually built in workshops on the 67th and 75th floors and consists of 7 radiating terraced arches.
32. The Chrysler Building was supposed to star in the 1933 King Kong Movie, but the producers preferred to use the tallest building in the world at the time, the Empire State Building.
33. It made its appearance in numerous other movies, including Independence Day (1996), Armageddon (1998), Deep Impact (1998), Godzilla (1998), and A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001).
This concludes the ultimate list of facts about the Chrysler Building, one of the most iconic skyscrapers in all of New York!