The Most Famous Art Deco Skyscraper in the World

The CHRYSLER BUILDING was designed by WILLIAM VAN ALEN for Walter P. Chrysler, the automobile mogul.  It was completed in 1930, was higher than Paris' Eiffel Tower (1889) and became the tallest building in the world for a brief period of time until the Empire State Building opened in 1931.  A favorite building of both architects and New Yorkers, the Chrysler Building has been somewhat overshadowed by the fame of the taller Empire State Building.  When lit at night, the Chrysler Building’s unmistakable stainless steel Art Deco vertex is the most beautiful Art Deco design in the world.  The Art Deco spire and eagle head gargoyles were inspired by the radiator hood ornaments and designs of the Chrysler automobiles.  The 185 foot spire is made of polished nickel chrome stainless steel.

The lobby (below) has a Belgian black granite entrance and Moroccan marble walls and yellow Siena marble floors.  Notice that the ceiling mural is a painting of the outside of the Chrysler Building. 


The original building had a dining room, the Cloud Club, and a visitors’ center and observation deck on the 71st floor.  All observation decks at NYC buildings were closed during World War II; the Chrysler Building's observation deck never reopened.

Sadly, Brooklyn native William Van Alen, the architect of this skyscraper, was never paid for his services.  Chrysler accused Van Alen of accepting bribes and other improprieties and Van Alen’s reputation was forever ruined.  As the Chrysler Building was being constructed, an associate of Van Alen's, H. Craig Severance, was striving to build the tallest building in the world in lower Manhattan, the Bank of Manhattan Company at 40 Wall Street.  The architects soon were competing to see which building would become the tallest.  Severance added a flagpole to the Bank of Manhattan Company building to increase its height.  Then Van Alen build the vertex spire atop the Chrysler Building -- adding 1,046 feet -- assuring that it would become the taller building. 

In 2006 the Chrysler Building was voted as New Yorkers' favorite building in a poll done by the Skyscraper Museum.

In July 2008 it was announced that an investment fund based in the United Arab Emirates, had purchased a majority stake in  the Chrysler Building for over $800 million from the German company, Tishman Speyer Properities, which retains controlling interest of the landmark building and will continue to manage it.  The purchase continues a recent trend of foreign investors purchasing New York City property. 

In 2009 the Chrysler Building ceased to be the second tallest building in NYC, a distinction now held by the Bank of America Tower just down the street near Bryant Park and 42nd Street.