What started as a small speculative office building became one of New
York's most admired landmarks. Chrysler took over the lease of the office
building when it was in construction, hired William Van Alen to create a
monument to his growing company and, allegedly, asked the architect to
build the highest building constructed to date. To beat out his
competitors who were also trying to build the world's tallest building,
Van Alen erected a 185-foot spire on the top of the tower which was
secretly delivered to the site in sections and raised to the top in a mere
90 minutes. Only a few months later, the Empire State Building surpassed
the building in height, but the Art Deco skyscraper remains an
unparalleled monument to industry.
One of the first large buildings to use metal extensively on the exterior, the building's ornament makes reference to the automobile, the quintessential symbol of the machine age. Metal hubcaps, gargoyles in the form of radiator caps, car fenders and hood ornaments decorate shaft and setbacks of the white and black brick building. This aluminum trim culminates in a beautiful, tapered stainless steel crown that supports the famous spire. A private lounge called the Cloud Club and an observation area were located at the top of the building. A particularly beautiful example of the Art Deco style, the lobby is clad in different marbles, onyx and amber. It is decorated with Egyptian motifs and a ceiling fresco by Edward Trumbull entitled "Transport and Human Endeavor" that depicts buildings, airplanes, and scenes from the Chrysler assembly line. The building was landmarked in 1978 and it is now owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.