On May 27, 1930, the Chrysler Building opened to the public. It was the tallest building in the world at the time, a distinction that it held only for about a year when the taller Empire State Building was completed. In fact, the Chrysler Building was built as a part of a competition involving the Empire State Building and the Bank of Manhattan Building.
Walter Chrysler, the head of the Chrysler Corporation, entered into a competition in 1928 with the people who were planning to build the Empire State Building and the Bank of Manhattan Building as to who could build the tallest building in the world. Competition was fierce, and each team had its own plans to come out on top. When the builders of the Bank of Manhattan Building found out how high Chrysler was planning to go, they changed their plans in the middle of the construction in order to rise higher than Chrysler’s building. Indeed, because it was finished first, the Bank of Manhattan Building actually held the “world’s tallest building” title at first.
Chrysler expected something of the sort to happen, though, and he had a secret weapon to counter it. He had an incredible 125-foot-tall spire built inside the building as it was going up so that nobody could see. After the rest of the building was completed, the spire was affixed to the top, making it taller than the Bank of Manhattan Building, taking away the title of the world’s tallest building. Some people, though, felt that Chrysler hadn’t come by the honor honestly with the really tall spire trick. Of course, just a year later, the debate was rendered moot when the Empire State Building was completed, rising more than 400 feet taller than the Chrysler Building.