June 4, 2013

The Chrysler Building's tribute to the automobile

Construction of the Chrysler Building began in Manhattan in 1928 and finished in 1930.  William P. Chrysler, who created Chrysler Corporation in 1925, bankrolled the construction himself.  He wanted the building to be the corporation's headquarters.  It was a tribute to the machine age, and was supposed to be a symbol of modernity.  In 1928, the Milam Building in San Antonio, Texas became the first air-conditioned office building in America, and Chrysler wanted a more efficient system for his building.  With the work of Chrysler's engineers, it became the first fully air conditioned skyscraper in America.  There were reportedly no deaths during construction which was uncommon in the 1920s and 1930s.  Though the tower was reportedly not entirely modern (the brick was actually traditional), the decorations, ornaments, and furnishings however, were ultramodern.

 William P. Chrysler and the first Plymouth that was built in 1928.  [Via]

The building and its embellishments were designed to be a tribute to Chrysler's automobiles.  Architect William Van Alen included ornaments on different floors.  Enormous winged ornaments, were placed on the tower and designed to look like the Chrysler Plymouth's 1929 radiator caps.  Above them, at each corner of the tower were stainless steel eagle gargoyles, crafted by Chesley Bonestell and William Straton to look like Chrysler hood ornaments.  Van Alen also included a mosaic of race cars on the building.  Edward Trumball's marble fresco on the ceiling, called "Transport and Human Endeavor" illustrated "scenes from the Chrysler assembly line."  The first floor even had a Chrysler showroom in the early years.

The Chrysler family eventually sold the building and in 1976, the building became a National Historic Landmark.

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