Apparently it’s Buildings of New York Appreciation Week here in the Quick 10. Joining the New York Public Library in having a birthday this week is the Chrysler Building, which will be celebrating its 81st year dominating the Manhattan skyline. It may not be the tallest building in town these days, but it’s still one of the most impressive. Read on to find out how long it actually held the title of New York’s Tallest Building and nine other fascinating facts about the Art Deco masterpiece.
1. Without the freak show-riddled Coney Island amusement park Dreamland (pictured), the Chrysler Building would never have existed. When Dreamland burned to the ground in 1911, owner William Reynolds decided he needed a new, high-profile project to work on. He decided to enter the “Tallest Building in the World” race and commissioned architect William Van Alen to draft something.
2. It’s called the Chrysler Building not after the business, really, but after the man, Walter Chrysler. Though Chrysler used it as the headquarters for his car company for more than 20 years, the company didn’t foot bill for the building - Walter did. He bought the property and the design for (we think) $2 million after Reynolds defaulted on the lease. Chrysler purchased it himself so his sons could inherit it.
3. Chrysler never actually paid William Van Alen. He believed Van Alen was working with building contractors on some shady financial arrangements and refused to be a part of it.
4. The 27-ton spire on top of the building took just 90 minutes to erect. And it was kind of sneaky affair.
You see, the Empire State Building was going up at the same time, backed by Chrysler rival John Raskob, founder of General Motors. Raskob, in a bit of not-so-friendly competition, wanted to make sure his building was taller than Chrysler’s, but Chrysler was keeping the height of his building a secret, making it hard for Empire State Building architects to plan. “Raskob was worried that Walter Chrysler would pull a trick - like hiding a rod in the spire and then sticking it up at the last minute,” said project manager Hamilton Weber. Well, Raskob sure knew his rival, because that’s exactly what Chrysler did.
5. As a result, the Chrysler Building held the title of New York’s Tallest Building... for less than a year. Once the Chrysler Building was done, Raskob’s architects did some figuring and decided they could make the building 85 stories tall, eight stories taller than the Chrysler Building. They did, of course, and the Chrysler Building was bumped to the second-tallest building in the city.
6. The building hasn’t always been in high demand. Shockingly, during the recession of the early ‘70s, only 17% of the building was occupied and the building was nearly foreclosed on.
7. There are a total of 3,862 windows that gaze out on New York.
8. The entire building required about 400,000 rivets and nearly four million bricks, all laid by hand.
9. There are many elements of the building meant to be a subtle nod to Chrysler’s automobile empire - hubcaps, fenders, and radiator caps. The famous eagle gargoyles are even reminiscent of an actual Chrysler hood ornament.
10. The 66th through 68th floors of the building were once occupied by the Cloud Club, an exclusive gentlemen’s club with members such as Conde Nast and boxer Gene Tunney. It closed in the 1970s when the building fell on hard times.