Opening of the Chrysler Building 

U.S. #3910b – from the Modern American Architecture issue.

On May 27, 1930, the Chrysler Building, the tallest man-made structure at the time, opened to the public.

The art deco skyscraper was the brainchild of auto manufacturer William Chrysler, who wanted a monument to his growing car company. He hired Brooklyn-born architect William Van Alen to design and build a massive building that would stand apart in the Manhattan skyline.

Construction on the building began on September 19, 1928. Its construction included the use of 391, 881 rivets and about 3,826,000 hand-laid bricks. While the building was under construction, 40 Wall Street (also known as the Bank of Manhattan Building) was also being built. The men behind these buildings were soon in a war to create the world’s tallest building. The planners of 40 Wall Street change their original plans from 840 feet to 927 feet, to surpass the height of the Chrysler building.

U.S. #3910b – 2005 Chrysler Building First Day Cover.

But Chrysler was insistent that his building would be the tallest and worked out a secret plan to win. He had a 125-foot long spire built secretly inside the building and then placed atop the Chrysler Dome. 40 Wall Street was completed first, so it held the title of world’s tallest building for about a month. But once the Chrysler Building was completed and opened on May 27, 1930, its 1,048 feet height made it the world’s tallest structure. (This title was in turn taken away a year later with the completion of the 1,250-foot tall Empire State Building.)

U.S. #3184j – The Chrysler Building is often described as the epitome of the art deco style.

To make the building stand out and represent Chrysler, they chose shining steel automobile icons to decorate the building exterior. Chrysler had tested the alloy – a mixture of chrome, nickel and steel – to be sure that exposure would not tarnish its silver glow. Large metal hubcaps, giant winged radiator caps, and huge hood ornaments also adorned the building. Finally, a sunburst-patterned, stainless steel dome was made to support the needle-like spire.

Click here for photos and more about the Chrysler Building.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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  1. Wow! Started on September 19, 1928 and completed less than two years later on May 27, 1930. Quite a feat. There is a bridge reconstruction here in Connecticut, three lanes spanning 300 feet on I-395 that is closing in on that time frame and only one lane is complete at this point.

  2. Quite a fascinating history on Chrysler Building with a link that offers a pictorial account from inside. Any additional FDCs that I can purchase?

  3. Like Tom Dowling, I have always considered the Chrysler Building to be the most attractive building in New York City. Indeed, I think it is the most beautiful tall building in any major city. Growing up in the area, I got to visit it and many other Art Deco structures in New York City. What treasures they are!

  4. I believe Mr. Chevrolet’s first name was Louis. At least it sounds more French than Walter.

  5. The lobby of the Chrysler Bldg. housed the Texaco Travel Service counter, when I first visited there in the early 1960s. I also noticed a shot of it in an early scene from the 1947 movie “Kiss of Death” starring Victor Mature and Richard Widmark (remember Tommy Udo and his sinister laugh?) , so it must have been there for some time. I wonder if it is still there, but I doubt it, as Texaco has surrendered most of its gas stations to Chevron.

    Similarly, Chevron Travel Service had their service counter in the front lobby of the Standard Oil Bldg. on Market Street in San Francisco, when the building opened around 1968. It was nice and convenient for anyone contemplating a road trip, but it didn’t last long. Chevron closed it after a year or two, and furthermore closed the building to visitors entirely after someone blew up a toilet on the 20th floor. They moved their S.F. operations across the bay to San Ramon in the 1970s, about the time Standard Oil Co. of Calif. became Chevron USA Inc.

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