By QuickLiquidity | Date: June 13, 2017 | Category: History
In the late-1920s, New York’s economy was booming and a competition to build the world’s tallest building was heating up. One man who was at the center of it all was Walter Chrysler of the Chrysler Corporation, who wanted to build the world’s tallest building as a monument to himself and American capitalism. Chrysler began construction of his monument, the Chrysler Building in 1928 at 405 Lexington Avenue. Despite the buildings name, the Chrysler Corporation did not pay for the construction of the building and never owned it. Instead Chrysler paid for it himself, with the hope of his children one day inheriting the world’s tallest building.
The architects of a competing building, 40 Wall Street, had devised a plan to prevent the Chrysler Building from ever becoming the world’s tallest building. Seeking the title for themselves, they planned 40 Wall Street to be 925 feet tall: 85 feet taller than the Chrysler Building had originally planned to be. When Chrysler found out about 40 Wall Street’s plans he decided to add a surprise 186-foot spire to his building. 40 Wall Street finished construction first in April of 1930, and held a celebration for being the tallest building in the world, without knowing that they were about to be surpassed. Less then two months later, the construction workers at the Chrysler Building hoisted 4 parts of the secret spire to the top and riveted them together in 90 minutes. At 1,046 feet high, the Chrysler Building became the world’s tallest building¹.
John J. Raskob of General Motors, a rival of Chryslers, also aspired to build the world’s tallest building. Raskob purchased 350 Fifth Avenue and began construction of the Empire State Building in March of 1930, only a few months before the Chrysler Building was completed. Raskob hired architect William F. Lamb, who finished the original drawings for the Empire State Building in only two weeks. In one of their first meetings Raskob had taken a jumbo pencil, stood it on its end and asked Lamb, “Bill, how high can you make it so that it won’t fall down?” Using over 3,400 laborers a day, the building went up in just over a year, well ahead of schedule and under budget at $40 million, which would be nearly $600 million today. During certain periods of construction, the frame grew a remarkable four-and-a-half stories a week. Not to be bested by the Chrysler Building, Raskob put the final cherry at the top of his building – a spire, making the Empire State Building a soaring 102 stories and 1,250 feet high. The Empire State Building was completed in May of 1931 and became the world’s tallest building, a title it would hold for nearly 40 years until the World Trade Center was completed in 1970. While successful in beating the Chrysler Building in height, the Empire State Building was far from being the success Raskob had hoped.