Chrysler Building

Historic Building in Midtown

Image by CreativeDream Getty Images

Designed by William Van Alen in 1930, the 77-floor Chrysler Building is prime-time architecture: a fusion of Moderne and Gothic aesthetics, adorned with steel eagles and topped by a spire that screams Bride of Frankenstein. The building was constructed as the headquarters for Walter P Chrysler and his automobile empire; unable to compete on the production line with bigger rivals Ford and General Motors, Chrysler trumped them on the skyline, and with one of Gotham's most beautiful lobbies.

Indeed, while the Chrysler Building might not offer a restaurant or observation deck, its lobby makes for a lavish consolation prize. Here, dark African wood and marble contrast against the brash, man-made steel of industrial America. The lobby's elaborately veneered elevators are especially beautiful, their Egyptian lotus motifs made of inlaid Japanese ash, Oriental walnut and Cuban plum-pudding wood. Above is painter Edward Trumbull's ceiling mural Transport and Human Endeavor. Purportedly the world’s largest mural at 97ft by 100ft, its depiction of buildings, airplanes and industrious workers on Chrysler assembly lines shows the golden promise of industry and modernity.

Topping out at 1046 ft with its spire, it held the title of the world's tallest building for 11 months until the nearby Empire State Building was built. More than 80 years on, Chrysler's ambitious $15 million statement remains one of New York's most poignant symbols. For a great view of the Chrysler Building, head to the corner of Third Ave and 44th St, from where you can appreciate the building's slimline profile, gargoyles and spire in one hit. If you have binoculars, bring them for a close-up view of the facade's detailing, which includes basket-weave motifs and a band of abstract automobiles. Alternatively, head to the top of the Empire State Building, where pay-per-view telescopes from the observation deck will get you up close and personal with that gleaming steel spire.