This post is a visitor’s guide to the Chrysler Building. The Chrysler Building, one of the top 10 most famous skyscrapers in New York City, was the tallest building in the world for a brief eleven months before the Empire State Building was completed. Though it lost the honor of being the world’s tallest building, it is still considered one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the world and is an iconic part of the New York City skyline. So, can you visit the Chrysler Building? In this post we cover its history, how to get to its, what else there is to see in the area – and we also have a secret tip on how to get a view of New York City from its top. (español)
Be sure to check out our post comparing the different New York City observation decks, including the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock or World Trade Center 1. Entries to these observation decks are included from free from many of the New York tourist passes.
The Chrysler Building is located at 405 Lexington Ave in Midtown Manhattan adjacent to Grand Central Terminal. It is served best by the 4, 5, 6, (yellow circle) and 7 (red circle) trains at the terminal’s subway station. You can also access the Chrysler Building via Times Square on the B,D,F,M, N,Q, R and S -shuttle trains (Green Circle). We recommend that you use this Google map to navigate your way to the Chrysler Building.
When the building opened in 1930, there was an observation deck called “Celestial” on the 71st floor. It was closed to the public in 1945 and is currently occupied by a private firm. However, you can take a look at a few images of the observatory by clicking the link above. Until the late ‘70’s there was also The Cloud Club, a private club occupying the 66th through 68th floors. Today, unfortunately, there is no official way for tourists to visit anything beyond the lobby.
Observation decks can be found at Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building and World Trade Center 1. Click on this video for a view within and without the buildings spire.
A Look Inside the Chrysler Building Spire
The lobby, however, should not be missed. It is a truly spectacular example of Art Deco design, the Jazz Age at its finest. You can see the beautiful mural on the ceiling, the clock and the beautiful elevators, each with their own custom designed doors. The lobby is open Monday through Friday, from 8am to 6pm. When the building opened to the public in 1931, the lobby housed a Chrysler dealership (see image). Below is a short video taken from a walking tour that included the Chrysler Building lobby. Click here for more images of the lobby.
There is a way to get to the crown of the Chrysler Building. A dentist’s office is located on the 69th floor of the building. There is no better way to take the discomfort out of a dental visit than to have it accompanied by spectacular city views! Whether you just see the lobby or you decide to get to the top (and get your teeth cleaned as an added bonus!), the Chrysler Building is one that should not be missed! Read the New York Time’s 2005 article on Dr. Weiss.
The architect who designed this beautiful skyscraper was William Van Alen. His design was sold to Walter P. Chrysler, who intended the completed building to be the home of the Chrysler Corporation. With this in mind, the design was altered slightly to celebrate the aesthetic of Chrysler automobiles.
If you take a look at the 31st floor, you will notice some interesting artistic elements. On all four corners of this floor are silver winged ornaments. These designed as the cap of the God Mercury, the god of speed, an inspiration for Walter Chrysler. These caps were used as radiator caps on Chrysler automobiles. The motifs surrounding the winged caps, are images of the 1929 Chrysler Speedster, including chrome hubcaps.
Replicas of eagle hoods ornaments (see banner image above) from a 1920’s Chrysler Plymouth can be found jutting off of the building like gargoyles, 2 at each corner.
The signature element though is the beautiful crown of the building, which features seven terraced arches radiating upwards, creating a shiny sunburst pattern, very typical of the Art Deco Movement. The crown culminates with a 197 ft tall (60 meters) steel spire. The crown is clad in stainless steel (nickel) developed by the German Krupp company.
1928 was an exciting time for architecture in New York City. Buildings were growing taller and taller and it was a race upwards to the sky with each new construction. At the time that ground was broken for the Chrysler Building, it had one chief rival in the race to become the tallest building in the world: 40 Wall Street.
40 Wall Street was designed by Van Alen’s former partner, H. Craig Severance. 40 Wall Street altered their original design (840 ft) for a new height of 927ft, thus beating the nearby Woolworth Building and the proposed height of the future Chrysler Building, 925ft. 40 Wall Street was completed in May of 1930 and they proclaimed their victory as the new tallest building in the world. They were unaware of the secret weapon that Van Alen was hiding in the crown of the Chrysler Building: the 125 foot stainless-steel spire that was going to grace the top of the building. Four days after 40 Wall Street’s victory, the spire was raised. It was in four pieces. The first was raised onto the roof and lowered into the building. The remaining sections were added in just 90 minutes. That hour and a half was all that it took for the Chrysler Building to become the tallest man-made structure in the world, beating both 40 Wall Street and the Eiffel Tower. Much debate ensued over whether or not the spire should count in the height, since 40 Wall Street really had more useable floors. The debates were halted eleven months later, when a new contender entered the scene. The Empire State building was 1250 feet, far taller than the Chrysler Building and with many more floors than 40 Wall Street. The world had a new champion.
The Chrysler Building is quite centrally located in Midtown Manhattan, so it is close to many other attractions. Here is a list of some of the nearby attractions.
Chrysler Building Stats
Year Started: 1928
Year Completed: 1930
Height (Roof): 925 ft
Height (Antenna Spire): 1,046 ft.
Floor Count: 77 floors
Fun Facts About The Chrysler Building