Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Chrysler Building

I love the Chrysler Building, I really do. It is one of the most irresistible buildings I know. I suppose the Empire State Building is better known and I think the Woolworth Building is terrific, too, though I’m quite upset that they won’t even let you peak through the windows. It’s true. You not only can’t go into the lobby of the Woolworth, you can’t even stand within ten feet of the front door! Terrible shame. Ah, but the Chrysler, they love it when you walk into the lobby and look around. They’re proud of it, want to show it off. That’s how it should be with the Woolworth, too, you know. Boy, I’ll bet if the Woolworth family had anything to say about it, they’d want people to come in and take a really good look at their “Cathedral to Commerce.” But, of course, the Woolworth building is now controlled by some conglomerate that doesn’t care about art or architecture or cathedrals, just commerce.

Okay, back to the Chrysler. It’s lovable because, like the Empire State, it seems ubiquitous, but, at the same time so much more distinctive. You’ll be walking down the street, literally miles from Midtown and there it will be looming ahead, all shiny and rounded and jagged. Tallest building in the world for 11 months, before the Empire State was finished. What a time in New York, huh? That 1929-31 era. All these buildings going up that were around 1000 feet high. There’s one down in the Financial district at 40 Wall Street that was built in 1930 and was the tallest building in the world for about an hour, because the Chrysler was finished at almost the same time and they had secretly hidden the fact that a tall spire would be added to make IT the highest yet. And then 11 months later the Empire State, and then…well, you know, the depression hit and they didn’t start constructing tall buildings again until the late 60s with the John Hancock in Chicago. We Chicagoans have fond memories of the time when the tallest building in the Second City was the 42 storey Prudential. How long will it be, I wonder, before we have to wait for the next round of towering urban structures?


  1. The lobby of the Chrysler Building is one of New York's top Art Deco attractions. The accessibility of the lobby does not seem to inconvenience the building's residents much, though one has to go through a security checkpoint to reach the elevators. One would expect more of a public outcry about the Woolworth Building being closed to visitors.

  2. Thanks, John. I didn't know that about the Chrysler lobby being so popular. I agree with the need for the public outcry. I wonder how I could start one.

  3. Maybe if there were some seats outside you could sit in the 4th row....??
    The Chrysler (which I also love and love to see from afar) has an elegant partner in mid-town at 51st and Lex, the GE Building. It's the one with the salmon-colored brick facade and the 50 story tower that soars above the adjacent church. The two buildings make substantial bookends to the east 40's.

  4. Wow! I just happened to stumble on that GE building one day and love it, too! And they graciously welcome you into the lobby as well!