The Chrysler Building is the caged exotic dancer of the NYC skyline: you can look at her but you can’t touch. At least, that’s what I believed until recently. It turns out the Chrysler Building will welcome you into her cage, but she’ll never let you climb the bars.
I know, that metaphor was weird. Let’s start again.
The Chrysler Building is a NYC skyline legend, like the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower. But unlike those two other iconic buildings, the Chrysler isn’t nearly as tourist-friendly. While in the past, there used to be a public observation deck, a fancy sky-high bar, and even an automobile showroom, these days the Chrysler Building is strictly business, housing dozens of offices across its 77 floors. For the average Joe, that means you’d have to be lucky enough to have a bigwig friend on the 71st floor if you want to experience the Chrysler’s exclusive view of the city. But even if you don’t have friends in high places that doesn’t mean you can’t get through the door. On a recent weekday afternoon, having no connections at all, I walked in to explore the Chrysler Building’s lobby and basement.
Stepping into the lobby of the Chrysler Building feels as though you’re stepping back in time to the 1920s. Art Deco style covers the space from the red marble walls to the angular light fixtures, but it might be hard to take in all those details because it’s a little dark in the lobby (That’s done intentionally to set an intimate mood). Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of light to appreciate the lobby’s best feature: its ceiling. The ceiling is covered by a stunning 73-foot mural painted by Edward Turnbull, which celebrates “Transport and Human Endeavor.” In addition to seeing planes, trains, and automobiles in the mural, you’ll also see the actual faces of the men who built the Chrysler.
If you can bear to tear your eyes away from the beautiful ceiling, turn the corner and take the stairs down to the lower level. It seems that at one point, quite a few businesses set up shop down here, but on the day I visited, only a bodega seemed to still be in business. Perhaps due to the lack of business activity, the lower level is pretty devoid of people with the exception of a couple of security guards and a few office workers heading to the Chrysler’s direct subway entrance. However, the lower level is not lacking in Art Deco food-themed backgrounds, which could be the perfect addition to your Instagram page. Don’t be afraid of the judgmental looks from the passing office workers; they probably did the same thing on first day in the building.
Remember that direct subway entrance I mentioned? Be sure to make a stop there to get a photo with the Chrysler Building.
Accounting for time to take photos, this visit to the Chrysler Building shouldn’t take more than 15 – 20 minutes. Maybe 25 minutes if you’re really mesmerized by the colorful ceiling. While it’s not an essential thing to do in New York, you won’t regret stopping by. Besides, although lots of people have seen the Chrysler Building, how many of them can say they’ve seen inside of it?
[Tip: When you walk in, act like you belong and no one will ask you any questions. It’s best to look like you’re an office worker waiting for an Uber or a fellow co-worker. As soon as you reveal that you’re a tourist (or a very curious local), they’ll restrict you to taking pictures from a roped off box in the corner of the lobby.]
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