Little Bits of History

May 27

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 27, 2017

1930: The Chrysler Building becomes the tallest building in New York City. The building replaced 40 Wall Street (also known as Trump Tower) as the tallest building in the city, but the Chrysler Building did not make the tallest building in the word. The Eiffel Tower kept that distinction until the Empire State Building took over. The Chrysler Building is located on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan and is today owned by Abu Dhabi Investment Council (90%) and Tishman Speyer (10%). Although it didn’t hold the title of tallest building for long, the Empire State Building surpassed it less than a year later, it remains the tallest brick building (built around a steel frame) in the world.

The Art Deco building was the corporate headquarters for the Chrysler car manufacturer from its opening date until the mid 1950s. It was never owned by the company since Walter Chrysler paid for it himself so his children could inherit it. It has been deemed one of the finest buildings in New York City and was ranked ninth by the American Institute of Architects in their List of America’s Favorite Architecture. The building was designed by William Van Alen with groundbreaking taking place on September 19, 1928. At the time, building the tallest building was of great interest. The Woolworth Building had been able to hold the title from 1913 until 40 Wall Street took over. Taking to the skies was a high priority.

The building’s 77 floors give it 1,195,000 square feet of space and is services by 32 elevators. With the spire topping the building, it reaches 1,046 feet into the air, while the roof is at 925 feet. The top floor is 899 feet up. Building it was managed with rapid ascent averaging four floors a week. No workers died during the construction. The building contains 391,881 rivets and has 3,826,000 bricks which were manually laid. The competitive nature of the builders had the architect of 40 Wall Street modifying his plans to try to maintain his “tallest building” title. Van Alen then added the 125 foot tall spire to the top of the Chrysler Building. Except the spire was built inside the building and in secret, so as to thwart Severance’s claim.

As this date approached, the assembled spire could be placed atop the building and the already completed 40 Wall Street became second tallest building. The architectural structure of the Eiffel Tower reaches up to 984 feet and so Van Alen’s building was able to become the tallest manmade architecture structure in the world. This was no doubt thrilling for the man, but probably lost some of the luster when Walter Chrysler refused to pay the balance of his fee. Today, Chrysler Company has merged with Fiat and is traded as Fiat Chrysler with headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The building there is far less spectacular.

It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time. – David Allan Coe

Architecture is a visual art, and the buildings speak for themselves. – Julia Morgan

Color in certain places has the great value of making the outlines and structural planes seem more energetic. – Antoni Gaudi

Rationalism is the enemy of art, though necessary as a basis for architecture. – Arthur Erickson

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