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History of the Chrysler Building



This definitive jewel of the New York City skyline towers more than 1,046 feet high. At the time it was constructed, it was the tallest building in the world(1929), eclipsing the Eifel Tower in France. A year later it's record was exceeded by the Empire State building by a few hundred feet.

The project was endorsed by Walter P. Chrysler in 1928 for $25 million dollars. The chief designer and architect was a man by the name of Van Allen. Together, Chrsyler and Van Allen achieved a monumental dream whose respect and admiration has only increased with time.

Walter P. Chrysler was born and raised in Kansas, MI where he worked his way up to V.P. of General Motors in the early 20th century. The Chrysler automobile was named after him and many of his auto-design aesthetics came to play in almost every facet of the Chrysler Building, which symbolized the power of transportation and energy.

It is located in the heart of NYC, directly above Grand Central Terminal in one of the busiest areas of New York. The lobby, spanning 110 x79 feet of granite and marble from around the globe, contains one of the largest murals in the country. The building containes 71 floors and 32 elevators. Due to zoning laws of the time, the Chrysler Building was constructing in a staggered fashion, which allowed sunlight to pass onto the busy streets of New York City. All of the offices are on the perimeter of the structure to maximize the use of its thousands of windows.

The building uses 20,000 tons of steel and sits on several 35 ton footers that support up to ten times their weight. Workers used steam-powered jack hammers instead of dynamite to clear out the area below street level. This was a unique and delicate operation because the underground subway system was directly below. During its construction spectators would gather to marvel at the innovative methods used to construct this icon of achievement after the first World War. Construction proceeded at the rate of four floors per week, a record for the time.

The dome of the Chrysler building was constructed using curved beams of steel. The reflective, shimmering metal visible from the ground floor was a unique composition called Nyrosta imported from Germany. This material was also used on the detailing of the eagles, pineapples, and radio caps which highlight the structure.

In 1929, "the great vertex" as it came to be known was erected, making the Chrysler building several hundred feet taller than its competitor, the Manhattan Bank. It was constructed in secret in the Chrysler's dome and erected practically overnight. It towers at 185 feet tall. The vertex weighs 120 tons.

The construction of the Chrysler buildings was completed in a record 18months with no fatalities. It was expected that for each four floors above the 15th,it was estimated that there would be at least one death. For the construction of the entire building, that would have been at least 62 casualties. Due to meticulous planning and skill, the Chrysler building was erected with out any loss of life.

When the Chrysler building was finally unvailed, critics did not know what to think! It was so unconventional that it was largely considered some kind of "stunt". At virtually the same time, the stock market crashed. The building made no headlines and the people it was made to inspire were shrouded in economic hardship.

The economy aside, the building's occupancy rate opened with an astonishing 70%. It's competitor, the Empire State building which was dubbed the "empty state building" at the time for its low occupancy.


In 1931, Van Allen sued Chrysler because he had refused to pay him the standard 6% of the building. Van Allen had no contract. They eventually settled out of court for roughly $750,000. Although Allen had recieved his compensation, he gained a bad reputation from that kerfluffel and his career came to an end.


After Chrysler's death in 1940 at the age of 65, the building was sold. Over the next 30 years, the building was stripped and its internal decor was partially ruined. It was not until the Tax Reform Act of 1976 that things started to change. This act ensured a tax write off for historical landmarks and the building was infused with new life. Tishman Speyer properties and LZA Technology restored almost every aspect of the building to the grandeur of it's original state. It's restoration was completed in 2002 and it is still one of the most breath taking buildings to view on any skyline.

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