Rare details emerge on history of Chrysler building and the race to the top in Fox Nation's 'American Built'

American Built: Chrysler Building

The Chrysler building, now an iconic part of the New York City skyline, represents an era of concentrated economic growth, industrial power, and an architectural turning point for the country, but roadblocks stalling the race to build the world's tallest building nearly destroyed the project entirely.

In a new Fox Nation series "American Built" released this week, Fox News host Steeve Doocy explores the vision, design, and ingenuity behind five extraordinary projects that capture the American spirit.

In the episode "American Built: Chrystler Building," Doocy sits down with the grandson of Walter Chrysler, renowned architects, engineers, and historians who describe the sacrifice and soul that went into the iconic Art Deco-style skyscraper, located on the East Side of Manhattan.

"There was a frenzy in everything at that moment, said Aaron Betsky, Director of Virginia Tech School of Architecture. "It seems like dancing went faster, art went faster, the stock markets went higher, and buildings went higher –  and so various people were trying to make the tallest building in the world."

JERSEY CITY, NJ – MAY 25: The sun rises behind the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building and One Vanderbilt in New York City on May 25, 2019, as seen from Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

In 1927, known real-estate developer William H. Reynolds and architect William Van Alen set out on the quest to design the world's tallest building, but Van Alen's pricey design far exceeded Reynold's budget, Doocy explains.  A year later, Reynolds sold the lease to automotive giant Walter P. Chrysler, but he was unimpressed by Van Alen's original design.

"He threw the plans in the garbage," Betsky said. "He took one look at the design and said 'this is way too conservative.' "


"Chrysler manufactured some of the world's most luxurious and eye-catching cars. His skyscraper has to capture that sense of Chrysler style," Doocy said.

Chrysler reportedly instructed Van Alen to "Give it to me new…modern," but his updated design for a 900 foot- plus skyscraper would run afoul of New York zoning regulations, moving him back to square one.

Eventually, Chrysler and Van Alen settled on a structure with a five-story base and an intricate upper facade, making it the tallest brick building in the world with a steel framework and the eighth tallest in the city.

The building represented not just "sheer height, Betsky explained, "but a new outlook on what a skyscraper should look like."


For a deeper look at the history and ingenuity behind some of American's most famous structures, join Fox Nation and watch "American Built" hosted by Steve Doocy today.

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