The Easiest Way to Visit New York City's Chrysler Building
Strict Visit Policies for This Iconic NYC Landmark
TripSavvy / Kelsea Watkins
The Chrysler Building in New York City has been listed among the top 10 on a list of America's favorite architecture by the American Institute of Architects. The 77-story Chrysler Building is an iconic New York City image, easily recognizable in New York City's sprawling skyline because of its shiny peak. If you want to see this art deco masterpiece up close, there are some strict policies regarding visiting the building.
Viewing the Chrysler Building
Visitors can see the building from the outside, and for free, you can visit the lobby to examine the art deco details and an ornate ceiling mural by Edward Trumbull. The Chrysler Building lobby is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday (excluding federal holidays). You do not need tickets to enter the lobby.
The rest of the building is leased to businesses and not accessible to visitors. There are no tours through the building. There is absolutely no access beyond the lobby for tourists.
The building was constructed by Walter Chrysler, the head of the Chrysler Corporation, and served as the automobile giant's headquarters from when it opened in 1930 until the 1950s. It took two years to build. Architect William Van Alen added decorative features inspired by Chrysler's automobile designs, including stainless-steel eagle head hood ornaments, Chrysler radiator caps, racing cars on the 31st floor, and even the notable shiny vertex.
Former Observation Deck
From when the building opened until 1945 there was a 3,900 square-foot observation deck on the 71st floor called "Celestial" that offered views up to 100 miles away on a clear day. For 50 cents per person, visitors could walk around the entire circumference through a corridor with vaulted ceilings painted with celestial motifs and small hanging glass planets. The center of the observatory contained the toolbox that Walter P. Chrysler used at the beginning of his career as a mechanic.
Eleven months after the opening of the Chrysler Building, the tallest building in the world, the Empire State Building eclipsed it. After the opening of the Empire State Building, the number of Chrysler Building visitors waned.
Walter Chrysler used to have an apartment and office on the top floor. Famous Life magazine photographer, Margaret Bourke-White, well-known for her images of skyscrapers in the 1920s and 30s also had another apartment on the top floor. The magazine leased it in their name, because, despite Bourke-White's fame and fortune, the leasing company did not rent to women.
After the observatory closed, it was used to house radio and television broadcasting equipment. In 1986, the old observatory was renovated by architects Harvey/Morse and Cowperwood Interests and became an office for eight people.
Private Social Club
The Cloud Club , a private dining club, was once housed inside the 66th to the 68th floors. The Cloud Club included a group of mile-high power lunch spots in New York City atop the city’s most distinctive skyscrapers. The private dining club was initially designed for Texaco, which occupied 14 floors of the Chrysler Building and used the space a restaurant for executives. It had amenities like a barber shop and locker rooms that were reportedly used to hide alcohol during Prohibition. The club closed in the late 1970s. The space was gutted and renovated for office tenants.
The building was purchased by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council for $800 million in 2008 from Tishman Speyer real estate investment company for 90 percent majority ownership. Tishman Speyer retains 10 percent. Cooper Union, owns the land lease, which the school has turned into an endowment for the college.
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How to Visit the Chrysler Building
This post is a visitor's guide to the Chrysler Building, NYC's signature piece of Art Deco architecture. We cover its history, how to get to it, and what there is to see.
While it's technically not possible to go up the Chrysler Building, as a tourist anyway, there are plans to reopen an observation deck.
- Where is the Chrysler Building?
- Is There An Observation Deck?
- Tour the Lobby
- Exterior Design and Symbolism
- Things to Do in NYC
- Other Observation Decks
HOW TO GET TO THE CHRYSLER BUILDING
The Chrysler Building is located at 405 Lexington Avenue between 42nd Street and 43rd Street 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 .
It's one of our top things to do in Midtown Manhattan .
Be sure to read out blog posts on navigating the New York City subway system and choosing which MetroCard to purchase .
TIP: We cover the outside of the Chrysler Building on our Midtown Manhattan , Manhattan Night , and Grand Central Terminal Tours , not to mention on our GPS-enabled audio tours of Midtown .
Just about every tourist bus makes a stop at or around the corner of the Chrysler Building.
DOES THE CHRYSLER BUILDING HAVE AN OBSERVATION DECK?
In 2020, the Chrysler Building was given the go-ahead to open a public observation deck, though no exact date has been set.
You can read about the plans here.
There were observation decks in the past. When the building opened in 1930, there was an observation deck called Celestial on the 71st floor. You can see the images here .
Celestial was closed to the public in 1945 and is currently occupied by a private firm.
Until the late 1970s, there was also The Cloud Club, a private club occupying the 66th through 68th floors.
The developers of the new observation deck plan to redo the building’s 61st and 62nd floors, just above the famous eagle gargoyles.
The new observation deck will be the fifth skyscraper to offer stunning views of the city.
The other four are the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, Top of the Rock, and Edge at Hudson Yards. Check out our post comparing these observation decks .
Entries to these observation decks are included for free from many of the New York tourist passes .
CHRYSLER BUILDING TOURS
Though there are no official tours run by the building, the spectacular Art Deco lobby should not be missed.
It's free to enter the Chrysler Building and t here are no tickets.
You may enter the lobby anytime the building is open, which is 8:00 am to 6 pm (18:00) on weekdays.
You can see the beautiful mural on the ceiling, the clock, and the beautiful elevators, each with its own custom-designed doors.
The lobby of the building is included in our Midtown Manhattan Tour , which is also available anytime on our audio tour app .
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:
- Grand Central Terminal
- Bryant Park
- Empire State Building
- Times Square
- Rockefeller Center
- Waldorf Astoria
- United Nations Building
DESIGN, DECORATION, AND SYMBOLISM
The Chrysler Building is one of the most unique skyscrapers to have ever been built.
The architect who designed this beautiful skyscraper was architect William Van Alen in conjunction with contractor William H. Reynolds. s.
His design was sold to Walter P. Chrysler, who intended the completed building to be the headquarters of the Chrysler Corporation.
With this in mind, Van Alen's design was altered slightly to celebrate the aesthetic of Chrysler automobiles and the machine age.
When the building opened to the public in 1931, the lobby housed a Chrysler dealership ( see image ).
If you take a look up at the 31st floor, you will notice some interesting artistic elements.
On all four corners of this floor are silver-winged ornaments. These were 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 hood ornaments (see banner image above) from a 1920s Chrysler Plymouth can be found jutting off of the building like gargoyles, two 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.
A Look Inside the Chrysler Building Spire
The Great Skyscraper Race
The year 1928 was an exciting time for architecture in New York City. Buildings were growing taller and taller and it was a race upward 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 (the Trump Building ).
40 Wall Street was designed by Van Alen’s former partner, H. Craig Severance.
40 Wall Street altered its original design (840 ft) for a new height of 927 ft (measured from the pedestrian entrance to the top of the antenna), thus beating the nearby Woolworth Building and the proposed height of the future Chrysler Building, 925ft.
When it was completed in May of 1930, the building proclaimed its victory as the world's 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 were 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.
And although the Chrysler Building is not the tallest structure in NYC, it's still very tall.
CHRYSLER BUILDING STATS AND FUN FACTS Year Started: 1928 Year Completed: 1930 Height (Roof): 925 ft (282 m) Height (Antenna Spire): The building is 1,046 ft tall (319 m) Floor Count: 77 floors
- Though the interior skeleton of the building is steel, the exterior is brick. The Chrysler Building is still the tallest brick building in the world.
- The Chrysler Building was the first man-made structure to be taller than 1000 feet.
- 391,831 rivets were used in the construction of the building.
- Though the building was built very quickly, with an average of 4 floors per week built, no one was killed during the construction.
- New York’s Skyscraper Museum polled 100 architects, engineers, and historians in 2005, asking them to choose their favorite buildings in New York. The Chrysler Building came in first. 90% of those polled placed it on their top-ten list.
- Television station WCBS transmitted from the top of the Chrysler Building in the 1940s and ’50s. They later moved to the Empire State Building
- The lobby of the Chrysler Building contains the world’s very first digital clock.
- The ceiling of the lobby is painted with a mural by Edward Trumbull entitled “Transport and Human Endeavor.” The mural depicts scenes from Chrysler’s own assembly line, Charles Lindbergh flying The Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic, and The Chrysler Building itself.
- There are 32 elevators in the Chrysler Building- four banks of eight elevators. They are beautifully inlaid with intricate designs.
- The Chrysler family sold the building in 1953. Though the building still bears their name, they do not own it.
- The Cooper Union, a private university in New York, owns the land that the building sits on, and their name is on the deed for the building itself. There is a 150-year lease for the land and building currently in place.
- There are 3,862 windows on the façade of the building.
- The crown of the building is seen in the opening credits of Sex and the City. It is while Cynthia Nixon’s name is on screen. Are you a SATC fan? Check out our post about how to find Carrie's stoop .
- The building is referenced in the Broadway musical “Annie,” when Miss Hannigan tells the orphans to clean the floors “until they shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.” The musical is set during the Great Depression, and the Chrysler Building would have been a relatively recent addition to New York.
- Though William Van Alen designed the building, Walter Chrysler was the driving force behind the design alterations that made it the tallest building in the world. (Van Alen’s original design was 807 feet. When Chrysler entered the picture, it was adjusted to 925 feet, and then 1046 feet.)
- There is a restaurant at the Chrysler Building called the Capital Grille.
William Van Alen After The Chrysler Building
Van Alen was much acclaimed after the building was finished. His life quickly took a downward turn, however. He had failed to enter into an official contract with Chrysler when they began working together.
After the building was completed, Van Alen requested a fee. He wanted 6% of the building’s $14 million construction budget ($840,000).
This was the standard fee at the time. Chrysler refused payment, and van Alen ended up suing him to be paid. He won the suit, but his reputation was severely compromised.
That coupled with the onset of the Great Depression effectively ruined his career as an architect.
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Chrysler Building Observation Deck in NYC
The viewing deck is making a comeback.
Add this and other places to your personal travel plan. We will then help you with further suitable suggestions: free of charge and straightaway!
It’s been discussed for a long time, and now it has finally become reality: the Chrysler Building will be getting an observation deck! It’s set to be built on the 61st floor, and it will transform the current northern and southern terraces into an observation deck with a view that overlooks Midtown, the East River and One Vanderbilt Summit.
You'll also love this:
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The Chrysler Building’s new deck will be the 9th observation deck in New York , offering great views of Midtown Manhattan alongside SUMMIT One Vanderbilt , Top of the Rock , the Empire State Building and Edge Hudson Yards .
I’ll share everything you need to know about the Chrysler Building observation deck here in my article!
Table of Contents
First impressions of the Chrysler Building observation deck
As you can see from the initial designs, the deck will have glass walls like the Top of the Rock , so it’ll provide a great view of the streets of Midtown Manhattan.
Did you know that the Chrysler Building used to have a speakeasy bar called The Cloud Club on floors 66 to 68?
The Cloud Club opened during the Prohibition era, in 1930, and didn’t close until 1979. Now it’ll serve as inspiration for the design of the platform.
How high is the Chrysler Building observation deck?
Since the plans call for it to be located on the 61st floor, right at the level of the Art Deco eagles, it will be just over 200 feet up.
In addition to this, the 62nd floor will be rebuilt to create an enclosed area, similar to the ones at the Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building , One Vanderbilt Summit and Edge Hudson Yards .
When will the Chrysler Building observation deck open?
As of today, there is no specific timeline. Construction was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2020.
Chrysler Building Observation Deck Tickets
Currently, there are no tickets available for purchase for the Observation Deck. I’ll keep you posted in my newsletter, so as soon as there are updates, you’ll be the first to know. So sign up right here : there are already more than 30,000 New York enthusiasts subscribed!
From my experience, the ticket price will be between $32 and $40 per adult.
The Chrysler Building in NYC
At 319 meters tall, the Chrysler building is currently the 11th tallest building in New York. It is located in Midtown Manhattan , at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, and it’s just one block from Grand Central Station and three blocks from Bryant Park. When the Chrysler Building opened in 1930, it was the tallest building in the world, before that record was taken by the Empire State Building a year later.
The Chrysler Building is a truly iconic New York City building, and it is impossible to imagine the skyline without it. With its beautiful Art Deco architecture, the famous eagles on the corners of the 61st floor, and its unique spire that lights up at night, it always stands out.
Frequently asked questions about the Chrysler Building Observation Deck
Is there an observation deck in the chrysler building.
Not yet. However, there have been plans to add an observation deck to this iconic building for some time, and construction has now been approved.
Can visitors currently tour the Chrysler Building?
No, the Chrysler Building is not open to visitors. It is an office building that only authorized people are allowed to enter. So we’ll have to be patient until the observation deck opening!
How much will the tickets for the Chrysler Building observation deck cost?
There is no information about this at the moment, but based on experience, the tickets will cost likely between $32 and $40. This corresponds to the ticket prices of the other observation platforms in New York .
Is it worth visiting the Chrysler Building observation deck?
This is difficult to answer: on the one hand, it is definitely very exciting to be able to experience this historic building and beautiful architecture in more detail. On the other hand, right next to the Chrysler Building is the SUMMIT One Vanderbilt observation deck. This deck is much higher and therefore offers a view over more of New York.
The 9 Best Observation Decks in New York City
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New york city sightseeing tours, chrysler building.
It may not be the tallest building in New York City, but it’s definitely the most fascinating. The Chrysler Building’s Art Deco style captivates. I’ve often imagined what it would be like to live in this building – right at the top. Can you imagine the incomparable views of Manhattan as seen through the crown ornamentation?
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I just read in this TR:
that one of these tours visit the lobby:
BTW, you can simply walk into the building, but you won't get past the lobby, unless .... (for this you have to read the TR ^_^)
Meyem, I read Pamela's TR. She said they only got to go just inside the door, not really look around. She did the City Rover walks tour.
There is also the nearby Chanin Building on SW corner of 42nd St. and Lexington that is also Art Deco, but more modest, but was freely open as of last year. Formerly, I would drop into City Hall, the Surrogate's Court, and the Woolworth Building, but these are not so easily entered today. The French Building on the NE corner of Fifth and 45th St. has a striking Assyrian Art Deco lobby. My theory is that if you see a building with a nice exterior, it probably has a nice lobby as well. An exception is the Flatiron Building whose lobby is of no consequence. The Wall Street area has some gems as well.
I'm looking into doing one of the official Woolworth Building lobby tours. I was hoping to do a walking tour which would take in the Chrysler lobby. I believe some go in and some don't. I'm guessing that the Rose Room of the Library will still be closed this summer.
From what I heard, the inspection of the Rose Main Reading Room of the Library turned up more problems than originally anticipated. Asbestos had to be removed from the steel work of the roof that holds up the ceiling. The movement of this metal is believed to have weaken the connections to the plasterwork. The most recent update from the Library is here, but gives no hint of a reopening date:
I didn't mean to suggest by saying it was okay to look if you were waiting for an elevator in the buiding that you SHOULD find an excuse to have business somewhere in the building. As has been noted, the office space, at least the office space I have seen, is very ordinary, with dropped ceilings, modern decor, etc., and I don't recall any signs of art deco, even in an upper floor elevator lobby.
**She said they only got to go just inside the door, not really look around. She did the City Rover walks tour.***
Tour or solo, you won't get past the lobby. I've gone in there on my own and looked around, but I think I would have been asked to leave if it was more than the 2 minutes that I looked around.
When I first went to NYC in 1986-7 I went into the lobby and actually took photos. That was OK at the time. I even took a photo of the amazing insides of the lifts. That wasn't allowed, so I only have one. Really spectacular detail there, so do hover by the doors if someone who works there is coming in so you can have a quick peek.
We did a 90 minute tour of the Woolworth Building and it's a really wonderful thing to do. If they are still running these, I would jump at the chance to see that.
This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity.
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The Precarious History of New York’s Iconic Chrysler Building
Towering ambitions built the most charming skyscraper in America
On a mild October day in 1929, the architect William Van Alen watched from the corner of 42nd Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan as a 185-foot steel needle rose from the guts of his unfinished masterpiece, the Chrysler Building . For months, New York media had breathlessly covered the battle between Van Alen and his former business partner, H. Craig Severance, to complete the city’s tallest building. Van Alen’s 27-ton spire, secretly assembled high up in the building’s skeleton, was his trump card. Hoisted into place in less than two hours, the spire brought the Chrysler’s height to 1,046 feet—handily beating Severance’s Manhattan Company Building.
But there was scarcely time for celebration. Plans had already been announced for the Empire State Building, which would shatter the Chrysler’s record just over a year later. More important, the morning after Van Alen’s coup, a calamitous stock market crash plunged the United States into the deepest economic crisis the country had known. With its eccentric steel helmet and grandiose lobby, a temple to the power of American industry, the Chrysler Building encapsulated the giddy excess of its time—an Art Deco exclamation point to mark the end of an optimistic decade.
Dominating the New York skyline brought prestige and publicity, but tall towers also resolved a more prosaic problem: As land prices climbed, developers had to build upward to turn a profit, pushing their projects as high as engineering, natural light and, eventually, zoning would allow. “Skyscrapers were a self-fulfilling prophecy of the heated real estate market,” writes Neal Bascomb in his 2003 book Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City . By the 1920s, with Europe in ashes after World War I, these buildings became brash totems of a new world order. Manhattan in particular had become the “harbor of the world, messenger of the new land … of the gold diggers and of world conquest,” wrote the German architect Erich Mendelsohn in his seminal 1926 book Amerika , published the year after New York overtook London as the world’s most populous city.
As the New York Times reported in May 1929, skyscrapers had “become to the whole of these United States a symbol, a fashion and a heaven-climbing contest.” Money seemed inexhaustible, and as speculation came to defy the laws of financial logic, buildings increasingly seemed to defy the laws of physics. When the market plunged, vacancies in New York soared; the Empire State Building, for instance, sat mostly empty for almost a decade. The Chrysler fared better, opening in 1930 with over 70 percent occupancy by companies including Western Union and, of course, Chrysler, whose founder, Walter Chrysler, had purchased the lease on the lot, and Van Alen’s design, before construction began. Even still, what one writer for Scientific American had, in 1930, called “a towering sword of fire” soon looked like a gaudy act of hubris. In a brutal 1931 takedown for the New Republic , the legendary critic Lewis Mumford dismissed the building as “a series of restless mistakes.” Moreover, he wrote, the Chrysler proved “the real dangers of a plutocracy: It gives the masters of our civilization an unusual opportunity to exhibit their barbarous egos.”
But ego alone was not enough to make projects at this scale work. After the Chrysler family sold the tower in 1953, the building went into four decades of decline, as successive owners cut maintenance costs, drilled lights into the lobby’s painted ceiling and used the spire to store junk. In the early 1970s, with New York City itself careening toward bankruptcy, the Chrysler’s occupancy rate reached a catastrophic low of 17 percent, and even after its 1978 inscription by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, the building kept slipping further into disrepair. A $100 million renovation in the late 1990s resuscitated the building, but it has continued to change hands, most recently in 2019, as more desirable towers sprout up around it.
After the trauma of 9/11, pundits once again declared the age of the skyscraper over, but in the last two decades towers around the world have only gotten bigger. As Carol Willis, a historian and founder of New York’s Skyscraper Museum , notes in her 1995 book Form Follows Finance: Skyscrapers and Skylines in New York and Chicago , “The tallest buildings generally appear just before the end of a boom.” The Woolworth Building, the tallest building in the U.S. before the Chrysler, was completed a year before the outbreak of World War I, and the World Trade Center topped out in 1973 as an oil crisis sent the world economy into a tailspin. Today, Manhattan is home to five buildings taller than the destroyed Twin Towers. Who can say what will bring this latest boom to an end? Developments like these respond to economic context: The Chrysler Building’s spire did not puncture the stock market bubble; its mirror-like arches merely reflected it.
Surrounded by giants, the Chrysler Building today seems almost diminutive—yet perhaps no other New York building attracts such admiration. “The skyscraper is a romantic concept,” Willis says, and the Chrysler speaks to the romantic possibilities of the still-young nation. As Madeleine Ruthven wrote in a 1937 poem named for Van Alen’s crowning achievement, “These airy mountains of glass / Are the signature of an age — / A way of life that must pass.”
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Michael Snyder is a Mexico City-based journalist specializing in architecture and culture.
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Chrysler Building in New York
Visit one of new york’s famous monuments.
The Chrysler Building is a landmark building that holds the record for being the first building to surpass 1,000 feet in height. One of the star attractions on the east side of Manhattan, New York, the art deco-style Chrysler Building boasts 77 floors and a stunning height of 1,046 feet. Most of the building is available to tour to see the incredible construction and architectural details.
The art deco masterpiece skyscraper is hard to miss on the New York City skyline, since it towers over other surrounding places in its vicinity. Whether you want to tour the inside of the building or just catch a glimpse of it, the historical building has several exciting viewpoints both within the building and from other observation areas within the city.
Chrysler Building in New York - one of the highlights of 11 Most Iconic Buildings in New York (Read all about New York here)
Chrysler Building highlights
The Chrysler Building is a fascinating historic landmark that draws visitors from all over. Within the building, you can see spectacular views of the city and get a glimpse into the art deco era in New York City. If you want a new view of the city, book a night tour of the city and check out the Chrysler Building and surrounding skyscrapers illuminated with lights.
History of the Chrysler Building
The Chrysler Building was originally introduced by the developer and New York Senator, William H. Reynolds. However, the actual construction came from Walter Chrysler, the head of the Chrysler Corporation. On May 27, 1930, the building was completed. For 11 months after completion, it held the title of the tallest building in the world. Although built for Chrysler Corporation, Walter Chrysler funed and retained ownership of the building for his children to inherit. In 1952, the building was sold to the Chrysler family and had several owners over the years before becoming a New York City landmark and National Historic Landmark in 1976.
The construction cost about $10 million. William Van Alen is the architect that originally designed the magnificent skyscraper, while Ralph Squire & Sons engineering firm handled construction. To this day, the Chrysler Building is still an exemplar of art-deco architecture and a famous landmark in New York City.
Good to know when visiting the Chrysler Building
The building is open for tours on weekdays between 8 am to 6 pm and is free to visit. Although it only opens during the day, nighttime brings out a whole new look, as the elaborate architectural details are highlighted by lights. While you are at the Chrysler Building, you can also visit other attractions in the area like the Grand Central Terminal and Grand Central Market.
Because of the people who come to visit, it is advisable to book your travel in advance and include the Chrysler Building in your sightseeing itinerary. You can find hotels and vacation rentals near the building to stay nearby. For refreshments during your sightseeing, you can visit places like Juice generation and Gregorys Coffee to pick up snacks and drinks.
Location: 405 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10174, United States
Open: Monday–Friday from 8 am to 6 pm
Phone: +1 212-682-3070
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The Chrysler Building: A History and How-To
by Fiona F.
Last Updated: June 27, 2023
The Chrysler building is one of New York’s most famous landmarks. And most stunning: If Manhattan’s skyline is “the city’s crown,” as H.G. Wells called it, then the Chrysler Building is perhaps its finest jewel. The 77-story tower, an Art Deco treasure, is the ultimate symbol of New York’s elegance and energy.
Want to know how the Chrysler building was constructed… and how to visit it today? Read on!
Table of Contents
Building the Chrysler building
The Chrysler Building rose during New York’s golden era of skyscrapers, when business was booming and titans of industry sought to outdo one another with soaring structures.
Real estate speculator Williams H. Reynolds—the man behind Coney Island’s Dreamland Amusement Park—planned an office tower for which he acquired a prime plot at 42 nd Street and Lexington Avenue, next to Grand Central Terminal.
But in October 1928, Reynolds defaulted on his lease. Automobile magnate Walter P. Chrysler paid $2 million (reportedly from a personal account!) to acquire the plot, the plan, and the architect, William Van Alen.
Chrysler wanted a headquarters for his thriving corporation, a skyscraper to show off the luxury and mechanical marvel of Jazz Age automobiles.
He and Van Alen entered the heated race for the world’s tallest building, designing a tower that would reach a record 925 feet. But soon, their rival, Craig Severance—Van Alen’s former partner—announced that his new building for the Bank of Manhattan at 40 Wall Street would add a flagpole and lantern to reach 927 feet.
And so, shortly after 40 Wall Street’s celebratory debut, a 185-foot spike, which had secretly been assembled within Chrysler’s tower, rose through a hole in its roof, bringing the building’s height to 1,046 feet… the ultimate “gotcha” moment!
Chrysler claimed the top floors of the spire for his office and private residence, thus realizing his goal of having the highest toilet in the world. Less than a year later, though, the Empire State Building seized the title of “world’s tallest building.”
The Chrysler Building opened to the public on May 27, 1930. The building’s spire included an observatory and an exclusive private lounge (and sometime-speakeasy) called the Cloud Club, which closed in 1979.
The Chrysler family sold the building in 1953. It’s changed hands many times since. Over time, the building deteriorated, occupancy fell to 17 percent, and foreclosure proceedings began in 1975.
Fortunately, the Chrysler building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. Several stages of renovations have returned the building to its Art Deco grandeur.
The Art Deco design of the Chrysler building
The Chrysler building’s terraced Art Deco spire forms a stylized sunburst motif. It’s clad with chrome-nickel steel (reminiscent of a car’s chrome ornaments), gleaming brilliantly in sunlight. The spire is illuminated at night; the lighting was part of Van Alen’s original plan, but not installed until 1981.
At the base of the spire are huge steel American eagle gargoyles. Outside the 30th floor, a mosaic frieze of wheels studded with radiator caps, mudguards, and hubcaps appear to race around the building. On the corners are large, winged versions of Chrysler 1929 radiator caps.
The lobby is an Art Deco masterpiece, too. The walls are covered in red Moroccan marble, along with onyx, blue marble, and stainless steel ornaments. The ceiling mural by Edward Trumbull, Transportation and Human Endeavor, depicts ocean liners, airplanes, the Chrysler assembly line, and the building itself. And the impressive elevator doors feature a lotus-flower design of brass and inlaid African wood.
How to visit the Chrysler building
The Chrysler Building is located at 42 nd Street and Lexington Avenue.
While it can be seen throughout the city, particularly good views are found at 42 nd Street and 5 th Avenue, on Lexington Avenue from 36 th to 40 th Streets, or looking down from the Empire State Building’s observation deck.
The building’s triangular lobby has entrances on Lexington Avenue, 42 nd and 43 rd Streets. It is free to enter the building.
Have you experienced the Chrysler building? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!
About the author
Fiona's an Irish travel writer who has made New York City her home for the past 10 years. While she frequently returns to Dublin, she's captivated by the vibrant food, diverse people, and rich culture of NYC. Fiona's passion for travel extends beyond NYC and her homeland—she frequently explores new destinations, documenting her adventures and sharing her lively stories.
More by Fiona F.
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Property mogul’s downfall ‘grounds’ chrysler building lease talks.
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The collapse last week of Aby Rosen’s Chrysler Building partner, Austrian property mogul Rene Benko, couldn’t come at a worse time for the landmark skyscraper.
According to sources, Rosen’s RFR and Benko’s Signa were finally making progress on stalled talks to restructure their long-term ground lease with Cooper Union, which owns the land under the tower.
“They were talking almost since the time when they bought the leasehold from Tishman Speyer for $151 million in 2018,” one source said.
The huge ground lease rent was the reason for the low purchase price .
The ground lease went up from just $7.75 million in 2018 to $31.5 million this year, and is to rise to $41 million in 2028.
“It was off and on,” one source said of the talks. “But they were making real progress recently.”
The Chrysler Building is believed to be between 70% and 80% leased.
Asked to comment on the Chrysler Building’s current tenant roster and on talks with Cooper Union over the ground lease, Rosen had a one-word answer to each: “Can’t.”
But while Rosen is clearly in a pickle, it doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t find another partner to replace Signa.
Rosen has extricated himself from many a previous crisis. As Fried Frank real estate chairman Jonathan Mechanic put it, “I would never count Aby out.”
Mystery shrouds the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and East 47th Street, where South Korean apparel firm SAE-A recently filed plans to demolish its 11-story building at 576 Fifth.
But what the company hopes to do at the site remains unknown. It didn’t respond to requests for comment.
We reported in 2021 that SAE-A paid, or overpaid, $101 million for the now-empty jewelry building . The purchase was a surprise as SAE-A isn’t known mainly for real estate; it’s one of the world’s largest apparel manufacturers with plants in Asia and Central America.
The acquisition threw a monkey wrench into Extell chief Gary Barnett’s aim to assemble the entire Fifth Avenue west side blockfront between East 46th and 47th streets. Extell is still mulling which of two possible office and/or hotel projects for which it filed plans with the Department of Buildings.
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For a truly spectacular view, take a helicopter tour at dusk and ride past it
The Chrysler Building is one of New York’s most recognisable skyscrapers. A stunning example of Art Deco design, it stands at 319m and was part of a famous race in New York to be the world’s tallest building, along with 40 Wall St and the Empire State Building. The pace of construction was intense: the Chrysler building shot up at an average rate of four floors per week. And it did manage to become the world’s tallest building — although it only held the title for 11 months.
The building itself is a shrine to the automobile and the machine age. Gargoyles in the form of radiator caps, car fenders and hood ornaments serve as decorations. Stainless steel eagles, the American symbol, perch on the corners of the 61st floor, watching over the city. Inside, the lobby is filled with a rich, warm half-light that deepens the colours of its marble, onyx and amber stone, channeling 1930s New York. It holds a ceiling fresco that depicts the wonders of technology, industry and mankind’s endeavour. That endeavour can be seen in the building’s terraced crown, which consists of seven increasingly small terraced arches, each with a sunburst pattern of triangular vaulted windows, culminating in the soaring antenna which made it the first building in the world to break 1000ft.
A family affair
Although the building was the headquarters of the Chrysler corporation until the mid-1950s, Walter P. Chrysler actually paid for it himself, so that his children could inherit it. It is now owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council.
Race to the top
In a deliberate bit of myth building, the steel spire was assembled inside the building and then hoisted into position through the roof opening and fixed on top in just ninety minutes. All of a sudden it was there, and the Chrysler building was the tallest in the world — a great example of New York’s penchant for showmanship. 40 Wall Street even held a celebration for being the tallest building in the world, without realising what had happened.
- Begin your tour on the iconic Lexington Avenue - known locally as ‘Lex’ and walk to your first stop the Chrysler building ;
- Hear all about the history and formation, architecture and culture of New York City and the borough of Midtown Manhattan ;
- Walk through the romantic Grand Central Terminal and stop outside the magnificent Empire State Building ;
- Pass by the lions by New York Public Library and tranquil Bryant Park ;
- Enjoy the vibrant ambience and glittering lights of Times Square and explore Broadway : the world-famous musical theatre district;
- Walk up the iconic Fifth Avenue and pass by Saks one of the world’s most spectacular department stores;
- Admire the impressive Neo-Gothic St Patrick’s Cathedral (from the outside) - the city’s beacon of Catholicism since 1878 - a historic contrast to the modernity of NYC;
- Stop by Radio City Music Hall, still the country's leading venue for popular concerts and media events;
- Wander into Rockefeller Plaza and admire some of NYC’s best architectural and art deco masterpieces including the Rockefeller Centre known as ‘The Rock’ and Lawrie’s statue of Atlas ;
- End your tour at the Rockefeller Center where you can continue to explore this iconic neighbourhood at your own pace.
- Meet your private guide beside the greenest heart of New York City, Central Park ;
- Stroll glamorous, affluent Fifth Avenue to gaze at the world-famous window displays such as Saks Fifth Avenue;
- Marvel at Neo-Gothic St Patrick’s Cathedral - the city’s beacon of Catholicism since 1878;
- Admire some of Manhattan’s most beautiful Art Deco structures, like the Rockefeller building , and Lawrie’s statue of Atlas;
- Step into the bright neon lights of Times Square , NYC’s most famous intersection, a monumentally busy mecca for tourists, shoppers and protesters;
- Learn about the city’s rich architectural history, seeing the classics including the Chrysler Building and Grand Central Terminal;
- Finish your experience with jaw-dropping views from the Empire State Building observation deck , arguably one of the most iconic landmarks in the world.
- Enjoy wonderful views of the Chrysler Building and the MetLife Building - the original PanAm building, located competitively next to the train station, to symbolise the dominance of aviation over railway transport;
- Learn about the life of the 19th-century self-made millionaire, shipping magnate, and railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt ;
- Explore this vast and fascinating Beaux-Arts building , designated of important historic note;
- Discover the main concourse, and learn how Grand Central Terminal survived the proposed demolition;
- Learn all about the restoration, the Preservation Landmark Commission , and the role played by Jackie Kennedy Onassis in saving it;
- Admire the famous four-faced clock, a trusty meeting place for all true New Yorkers ;
- See the largest Tiffany Glass clock in the world;
- Explore the events spaces like the Vanderbilt Hall with its twinkling chandeliers, as well as the myriad of secret passageways and winding staircases to lower levels;
- Pass by the Oyster Bar - the oldest restaurant in the GCT;
- Visit the amazing Whispering Gallery - designed by Rafael Guastavino - and experience the magic;
- Hear about Track 61 - the secret rail line used by President Franklin Roosevelt to get to the nearby Waldorf-Astoria hotel - and so many other hidden gems and stories;
- End at the entrance to SUMMIT ONE VANDERBILT where your guide will give you tickets to this unmissable, unique attraction - a multi-sensory experience and a mindblowing observation deck with unbeatable views over the Manhattan skyline.
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Chrysler Building 405 Lexington Avenue
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Q: What are the most popular styles of Tours and Activities in New York City?
A: Based on our sales data over the past year, the most popular styles of tours and activities in New York City are:
- New York City Tours & Sightseeing
- New York City Walking & Biking Tours
- New York City Walking Tours
- New York City Boat Tours
- New York City Cruises, Sailing & Water Tours
Popular New York City Searches
- Top Rated New York City Tours
- Kid-Friendly New York City Tours
- New York City Tours & Activities with Instant Confirmation
- New York City Tours with Hotel Pickup
- New York City Tours with Free Cancellation
- New York City Tours with Perfect 5-Star ratings
- New York City Tours up to 1 Hour
- New York City Tours 1-4 Hours
- New York City Tours 4 Hours to 1 Day
- New York City Tours with Over 100 Reviews
- New York City Tours with Over 250 Reviews
- New York City Tours with Over 500 Reviews
- New York City Tours with Over 1,000 Reviews
- New York City Tours with Over 2,500 Reviews
- New York City Tours with Over 5,000 Reviews
- New York City Tours Under $50
- New York City Tours $50 - $100
- New York City Tours $100 - $250
- New York City Tours Over $250
- New York City Tours Likely to Sell Out
- New to Our Site
Sorting, ranking, and search results
Cool SWFL wants to make your searches as relevant as possible. That's why we offer many ways to help you find the right experiences for you.
On some pages, you can select how to sort the results we display and also use filter options to see only those search results that meet your chosen preferences. You'll see explanations of what those sort options mean when you select them.
If you see a Badge of Excellence label, the award is based on average review ratings, share of bookings with a review, and number of bookings through Cool SWFL over a 12-month period.
The importance of any one factor over any other in a sort order varies, and the balance is constantly being reviewed and adjusted. We're always updating our systems and testing new ways to refine and improve your results to make them as relevant as possible to meet your needs.
Accessibility modes, online dictionary, readable experience, visually pleasing experience, easy orientation, accessibility statement.
- November 15, 2023
Screen-reader and keyboard navigation.
- Screen-reader optimization: we run a background process that learns the website’s components from top to bottom, to ensure ongoing compliance even when updating the website. In this process, we provide screen-readers with meaningful data using the ARIA set of attributes. For example, we provide accurate form labels; descriptions for actionable icons (social media icons, search icons, cart icons, etc.); validation guidance for form inputs; element roles such as buttons, menus, modal dialogues (popups), and others. Additionally, the background process scans all of the website’s images and provides an accurate and meaningful image-object-recognition-based description as an ALT (alternate text) tag for images that are not described. It will also extract texts that are embedded within the image, using an OCR (optical character recognition) technology. To turn on screen-reader adjustments at any time, users need only to press the Alt+1 keyboard combination. Screen-reader users also get automatic announcements to turn the Screen-reader mode on as soon as they enter the website.These adjustments are compatible with all popular screen readers, including JAWS and NVDA.
Disability profiles supported in our website
- Epilepsy Safe Mode: this profile enables people with epilepsy to use the website safely by eliminating the risk of seizures that result from flashing or blinking animations and risky color combinations.
- Visually Impaired Mode: this mode adjusts the website for the convenience of users with visual impairments such as Degrading Eyesight, Tunnel Vision, Cataract, Glaucoma, and others.
- Cognitive Disability Mode: this mode provides different assistive options to help users with cognitive impairments such as Dyslexia, Autism, CVA, and others, to focus on the essential elements of the website more easily.
- ADHD Friendly Mode: this mode helps users with ADHD and Neurodevelopmental disorders to read, browse, and focus on the main website elements more easily while significantly reducing distractions.
- Blindness Mode: this mode configures the website to be compatible with screen-readers such as JAWS, NVDA, VoiceOver, and TalkBack. A screen-reader is software for blind users that is installed on a computer and smartphone, and websites must be compatible with it.
- Keyboard Navigation Profile (Motor-Impaired): this profile enables motor-impaired persons to operate the website using the keyboard Tab, Shift+Tab, and the Enter keys. Users can also use shortcuts such as “M” (menus), “H” (headings), “F” (forms), “B” (buttons), and “G” (graphics) to jump to specific elements.
Additional UI, design, and readability adjustments
- Font adjustments – users, can increase and decrease its size, change its family (type), adjust the spacing, alignment, line height, and more.
- Color adjustments – users can select various color contrast profiles such as light, dark, inverted, and monochrome. Additionally, users can swap color schemes of titles, texts, and backgrounds, with over 7 different coloring options.
- Animations – epileptic users can stop all running animations with the click of a button. Animations controlled by the interface include videos, GIFs, and CSS flashing transitions.
- Content highlighting – users can choose to emphasize important elements such as links and titles. They can also choose to highlight focused or hovered elements only.
- Audio muting – users with hearing devices may experience headaches or other issues due to automatic audio playing. This option lets users mute the entire website instantly.
- Cognitive disorders – we utilize a search engine that is linked to Wikipedia and Wiktionary, allowing people with cognitive disorders to decipher meanings of phrases, initials, slang, and others.
- Additional functions – we provide users the option to change cursor color and size, use a printing mode, enable a virtual keyboard, and many other functions.
Browser and assistive technology compatibility
Notes, comments, and feedback.