Fine Art Tuesday

This week we cycle back around to architecture.

I’ve always loved the look of the Chrysler Building. But I’m also a fan of Art Deco, so I guess it’s not a shock.

Built at 405 Lexington Avenue, the corner of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, it was the world’s tallest building for 11 months. It still holds the record for the world’s tallest brick and steel building at 1,046′. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark.

Designed by William Van Alen, the Chrysler Building was began in 1929 and completed in 1930, during the “skyscraper wars” that dominated New York City for a time. The original plan for a building on the site was done for William H. Reynolds, a New York state senator. Not having the funding to complete the work, Reynolds sold out the land lease and the plans to Walter Chrysler, head of the Chrysler Corporation. Chrysler requested certain design elements be changed or added, such as incorporating various design ques from Chrysler’s automobiles, including the Plymouth brand radiator cap. Much of the stainless steel metal work in the building was done by hand, a fact that Chrysler took great pride in. I can’t blame him, as he financed the entire project from his own funds-no banks were involved. Feel free to compare and contrast that to real estate development in our time.

Opening for tenants in April, 1930, just after the beginning of the Great Depression, it was 65% occupied by June of that year. There was some controversy during those early years, as Walter Chrysler refused to pay architect Van Alen’s full fee, claiming Van Alen had received bribes from various suppliers during the building’s construction. Van Alen eventually sued and won, but his career was heavily damaged by the incident.

An interesting fact is that the Chrysler Building pays no NYC taxes. The land is leased from the Cooper Union for Advancement of Science and Art, which is exempted by an 1859 law from paying taxes. A court case held that this exemption extended to the building built on the site, and so the Chrysler Building has never paid taxes. I find this deeply humorous.

Sold numerous times over its history, today the Chrysler Building is owned by by RFR (a privately held real estate group) and Signa Group (a privately owned European investment group).

(Information for this post comes from the Chrysler Building website, Wikipedia and thetowerinfo.com.)

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