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High-angle view of a worker sitting on a steel girder high atop the Chrysler Building, on the 54th floor, during its construction, New York City, 1929.
Aworker sitting on a steel girder high atop the Chrysler Building, on the 54th floor, during its construction, New York City, 1929.Museum of the City of New York/Byron Collection—Getty Images
High-angle view of a worker sitting on a steel girder high atop the Chrysler Building, on the 54th floor, during its construction, New York City, 1929.
Viewed from across the East River, midtown Manhattan is growing ever taller. The building in the center of the photograph is the new Chrysler Building which, when completed, will be the tallest building in the world (until 11 months later, when the Empire State Building will claim that distinction).
A group of construction workers assemble steel beams during the erection of the Chrysler Building, New York City, 1929.
View of the tower of the Chrysler Building under construction, New York City. Designed by William Van Alen, 1929.
The sharp, glistening spire of the Chrysler Building stands revealed as the world's tallest building sheds its scaffolding, May 26, 1930.
View of Midtown Manhattan looking west along 42nd Street with the Chrysler Building, 1930.
The lobby of the Chrysler Building (1930, William van Alen, architect) and its clock, two doors, and two Christmas trees with strings of light, the wall is red Moroccan marble, New York, mid 20th Century.
A gargoyle atop the Chrysler Building watches vigilantly over the rising Gotham towers of midtown Manhattan.
With the Chrysler Building to his left, a steel worker rests on a girder at the 86th floor of the new Empire State Building during construction in New York City, Sept. 24, 1930.
Aworker sitting on a steel girder high atop the Chrysler Building, on the 54th floor, during its construction, New York
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Museum of the City of New York/Byron Collection—Getty Images
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See Majestic Photos of the Chrysler Building Under Construction

May 27, 2015

Not all new skyscrapers make news. But the birth of the Chrysler Building, in 1928, immediately commanded attention, as TIME reported:

Walter Percy Chrysler has just gained the head of the third greatest motor company by the Chrysler-Dodge merger. He is less individualistic than Mr. Ford, yet is mighty proud of his success and reputation. Last week he started selling mortgage bonds (through S. W. Strauss & Co.) on what will be the tallest building—in Manhattan or the world. It will contain 68 stories, and be 808 ft. high. It will, of course, be called the Chrysler Building and is Mr. Chrysler's personal venture.

The completed building surpassed expectations, measuring 1,046 ft. and change.

"A great gesture towards a fortune built by automobiles is the Chrysler Building ," TIME reported shortly after it officially opened to the public 85 years ago, on May 27, 1930. "Oldtime Manhattanites recalled last week that 50 years ago its site was a goat pasture."

Its opening ceremony drew the presence of many of New York City's dignitaries—including Alfred Emanuel Smith, whose corporation was at that very moment constructing the Empire State Building, which would shortly knock the Chrysler from its place of honor.

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