In the late 1920s, before the Empire State Building was built, there was a competition to build the world’s tallest building in New York City
It looked like Severance’s design for 40 Wall Street
was going to take that honor, but William Van Allen
had a spire secretly built within his tower at 405 Lexington Avenue
in the last 90 minutes of construction, giving the building a finished height of 1,050 feat. The Chrysler Building
took the title by over by over 100 feet.
Built by the private funds of Walter Chrysler
, the building was never owned by the corporation, though it served as its headquarters for over twenty years. The Art Deco
styled building used many decorative features inspired by the automobile company, including eagles on the 61st floor that resembled hood ornaments and radiator caps on the 31st floor.
Chrysler’s office and private residence occupied the top three floors. It is said that he wanted to ensure that his toilet was the highest in New York so that he could “look down upon the city from his porcelain throne and shit on Henry Ford and the rest of the world.”
Above these floors are open windows, with no glass in the upper triangles. There once was a public observation deck, but it closed in the early ‘70s. The few electricians who still must access this space to replace occasional bulbs have to climb narrow ladders between floors to the final level at the 84th floor, which measures only a couple feet wide.
Beyond that, there’s a trap door to access the needle that was once used as a broadcasting antennae until it too, like its distinction as tallest, was transferred to the Empire State Building.