The Iconic Chrysler Building

Overview

Chrysler Building form 42nd Street
Photo: ©SMS

Still the tallest brick building in the world and currently, the 11th tallest building in NYC, the Chrysler Building has been noted as one of the most graceful art-deco buildings ever built, the 1,046-foot (319 meters) skyscraper adorns the New York skyline with its silver spire, eagles, and scary gargoyles. 

Constructed by Chrysler Car Corporation, the building was designed to reflect the automotive industry with a decorated granite lobby, a showroom for the latest Chrysler cars, and its hood ornaments enriching the building’s exterior which is designed to resemble radiator caps.

Architect William Van Alen designed this masterpiece. 

Location

New York City donated the land between 42nd and 43rd streets and Lexington Ave to The Cooper Union school in 1902 before the Chrysler Corporation took it over in the 1920s. 

Located just west was the Grand Hyatt Building, now being demolished to make way for the supertall 175 Park Avenue, which wasn’t without controversy since many feel it will block the skyline view of the Chrysler from the west side. 

The Design

Close up collage of the Chrysler Building
Radiator caps on the Chrysler Building’ Photo: @copy;SMS

The Chrysler Building is laminated with Nirosta stainless steel, which is a metallic alloy of 18% chromium and 8% nickel, but contrary to popular opinion, the structure does not have scary gargoyles.

Starting on the 31st floor, we see radiator caps, relative to the year the building was constructed, embellish it, and then, moving up to the 61st floor, we find silver eagles, representing the official bird of the United States.

The eagles that some do call gargoyles are made of stainless steel and are approximately 20 feet tall, including the pedestal they stand on. They were designed to be both decorative and functional, serving as lightning rods to protect the building from strikes.

There are a total of 50 ornaments in all that adorn the Chrysler Building. The skyscraper contains 3,826,000 bricks a total of 3,862 windows.

Engineering

The Chrysler Building does not have gargoyles. Instead, it features eagle head sculptures called “Eagle Gargoyles” or “Eagle Finials” on the corners of the 61st floor. These sculptures were designed by American sculptor William Van Alen, who also designed the rest of the building’s decorative elements.

The eagle gargoyles are made of stainless steel and measure approximately 20 feet tall, including the pedestal they stand on. They were designed to be both decorative and functional, serving as lightning rods to protect the building from strikes.

The building has a solid core that stabilizes the structure and setbacks that help deviate wind forces.

Spire War

Top of Chrysler Building Includig Spire
Top of Chrysler Building Including Spire. Image by Pexels from Pixabay

During its construction, the building was in the midst of a battle with Lower Manhattan’s Bank of Manhattan at 40 Wall Street (now owned by Donald Trump) regarding who would have the tallest building in the world. 

The Chrysler Building was rising four floors a day and in 1929, both buildings reached 925 feet, but 40 Wall’s architect H. Craig Severance added two more feet to the top of his building, laying claim that it is now the world’s tallest building.

This distinction lasted briefly as William Van Alen secretly built a seven-story, twenty-seven-ton spire inside the Chrysler Building. Just a few weeks after the Bank of Manhattan claimed its fame, Van Allen lifted the spire through the roof of the Chrysler Building, and within 1½ hours, it became the world’s tallest, soaring 77 stories and 1,046 feet high (319 meters), beating the Bank of Manhattan by 119 feet. 

It wasn’t long before the Chrysler Building would lose its status though, as the Empire State Building topped it out only one year later in 1931. 

The Observatory

Back in the day, there was a speakeasy n the 66th, 67th, and 68th floors called the Cloud Club and there was an observatory, but for over 60 years, this has not been the case. That will all change soon. In 2020, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved rebuilding a new observatory on the 61st floor, right alongside the eagle ornaments. 

Construction has not started yet but you can sign up for it and be notified when the observatory becomes a reality.

Chrysler’s Beauty Endures

No matter what skyscrapers might encircle it, nothing will keep the building’s brilliant art-deco stainless steel design and its majestic spire from decorating the City of New York skyline. Many consider the Chrysler Building to be the most beautiful in the city.

 

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