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Property - Top Stories

Secrets of Chrysler Building revealed as skyscraper goes on sale for £1billion

Mirror logo Mirror 10/01/2019 Matt Roper

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New York’s iconic Chrysler Building is up for sale  - and could be yours, for a cool one billion dollars.

The Art Deco structure, with its shining spire and signature eagle gargoyles, has been one of the city’s defining buildings since it went up 90 years ago.

Owners of the 925ft-high Manhattan tower, once the world’s tallest building, are seeking a buyer with many betting that the price will top the billion dollar - £780million mark.

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Thomas Birnbaum, president of NYC Realty Advisors, said: “For someone, that is an absolute trophy - it’s right up there with Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building.”

In case you’re tempted, here are some facts about the building you might need to know…  

the tower of the city: The building has 3,862 windows looking out over New York © REUTERS The building has 3,862 windows looking out over New York

The building was built in the famous Manhattan ‘race to the sky’

In the summer of 1929, a race broke out between automobile tycoon Walter P. Chrysler and Wall Street powerhouse Bank of Manhattan Trust Company for the title of the world’s tallest building.

Historians consider it to be the most intense race in skyscraper history.

It meant both the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building, backed by Chrysler rival John Raskob, founder of General Motors, were being constructed at the same time with both sides determined to win.

a large tall tower with a clock at the top of Chrysler Building: New York's Chrysler Building could sell for a billion dollars (Image: JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock) © Credits: JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock New York's Chrysler Building could sell for a billion dollars (Image: JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

It’s made of four million bricks

The nearly four million bricks that compose the Chrysler Building were all laid out by hand. 

Builders also used 29.961 tons of steel and 400,00 rivets, while 3,862 windows gaze out onto New York.

The 27-tonne spire on top of the building took just 90 minutes to erect

Chrysler had kept the height of his building a secret, to prevent Raskob from designing his even taller.

Project manager Hamilton Weber said: “Raskob was worried that Walter Chrysler would pull a trick, like hiding a rod in the spire and then sticking it up at the last minute.”

a large tall tower with a clock on the side of a building: The Chrysler's iconic gargoyles (Image: REUTERS) © Credits: REUTERS The Chrysler's iconic gargoyles (Image: REUTERS)

And that’s exactly what he did. Just when it appeared the bank might win the coveted title, a small crew jacked a needle-thin, 197-foot spire hidden in Chrysler’s building through the top of the crown in super fast time, taking their rival builders by surprise.

It was New York’s tallest building for less than a year

After getting pipped to the post by Chrysler, Raskob’s architects went back to the drawing board and decided they could make their building 85 stories high - eight more than the Chrysler Building. 

That’s what they did, and just four months after the completion of the Chrysler Building the world’s tallest title was claimed by a new structure, the Empire State Building.

a large room: The building's lobby is clad has Moroccan marble walls and yellow marble floors (Image: Getty Images) © Credits: Getty Images The building's lobby is clad has Moroccan marble walls and yellow marble floors (Image: Getty Images)

The building is decorated with subtle nods to Chrysler’s automobile empire

Walter Chrysler had his skyscaper decorated with ornaments resembling hubcaps, mudguards, and radiator caps, just like his cars, hoping that such a distinctive building would make his car a household name.

The famous eagle gargoyles are also reminiscent of an actual Chrysler hood ornament.

It meant that the building is today recognised as New York’s greatest display of Art Deco, characterised by sharp angular or zigzag shapes and ornaments.

There used to be a car showroom on the first two floors

The lifts continue the African theme (Image: Getty Images) © Credits: Getty Images The lifts continue the African theme (Image: Getty Images)

Despite it’s name, the Chrysler Building was never the headquarters for Chrysler.

But the first two floors of the building’s lobby was once a showroom full of new Chrysler cars.

In fact the lobby’s Moroccan marble walls, yellow marble floors, chrome steel ornamentation and murals, was designed as a tribute to the automobile.

An exclusive men’s club operated on floors 66 to 68

The Cloud Club was frequented by 300 members of New York’s elite, including Conde Nast and boxer Gene Tunney.

At one time it was the highest lunch club in the world, and included a private dining room just for Walter Chrysler, with a etched frieze of automobile workers.

The club closed in the 1970s when the building fell on hard times. 

the tower of the city: Visitors used to go to the top of the building for breathtaking views (Image: Getty Images) © Credits: Getty Images Visitors used to go to the top of the building for breathtaking views (Image: Getty Images)

There was once a water-bottling plant in the basement

An intricate system called the “hydrazone water bottling” unit was created in the basement which filtered tap water which was then bottled for water coolers to be distributed to tenants in the building.

Author David Stravitz said: “The large room was magnificent, with fabulous tiling throughout. Quite exotic for a space most people never saw.” 

It used to have a heaven-themed observation deck

When the building opened in 1931, people could go up to the 71st floor observatory in the spire and take in views of the city from all four sides for 50 cents.

The deck, which was painted with “a celestial motif, with sun rays painted on the walls, and Saturn-shaped lighting globes hanging from the ceiling”.

a piano in a dark room: A sign above the Chrysler Building's 43rd Street entrance (Image: REUTERS) © Credits: REUTERS A sign above the Chrysler Building's 43rd Street entrance (Image: REUTERS)

It was closed to the public in 1945, when the floor was occupied by a private firm.

It has never paid any taxes

Not a single dollar in taxes from the Chrysler Building has ever gone to New York City because the land has been owned by Cooper Union since 1902, and is an endowment for the college.

Instead, the Chrysler Building owners pay Cooper Union, which is tax-exempt. 

There are a few apartments hidden inside

Walter P. Chrysler had a private apartment on the top floor, and was said to boast of having the highest toilet in Manhattan.

And LIFE photographer Margaret Bourke-White, well-known for her images on skyscrapers in the 1920s and 1930s, lived in another apartment on the 61st floor. 

Today, the tenant in the top habitable floor is a dentist, known as the Dentist in the Sky.

Gallery: New York City's Iconic Chrysler Building (Picture Services)

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