The Chrysler Building’s Long Lost Observatory

Chrysler Building Observatory
Chrysler Building Observatory
Chrysler Building Observatory
Chrysler Building Observatory[Photos from the amazing Chrysler Building: Creating a New York Icon Day by Day by D Stravitz]

“A strong example of the influence of German Expressionist film set design is found in the Chrysler Building’s seventy-first floor observatory, which was open to the public until 1945. The observatory featured a celestial motif, with sun rays painted on the walls, and Saturn-shaped lighting globes hanging from the ceiling. “The steeply tilted walls reflected structural necessity masked as pure design through a close look at Expressionst film sets, principally the angular mad-house of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (Pierpont 79). The effect, no doubt, was one of disorienting splendor. Like the German Expressionist filmmakers, Van Alen used architecture to dramatize a state of mind (Rhode 204).” *

Sigh. I wish I had a time machine.

*From The Chrysler Building: One Kansas Mechanic and His Jazz-Age Tower of Babel, by yours truly
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11 Responses to The Chrysler Building’s Long Lost Observatory

  1. Cori says:

    THAT. IS. AMAZING. If you ever get your time machine then let me come with you! Would love to see that.

    • flappergirlcreations says:

      Of course, doll ;)

      It really breaks my heart the observatory isn’t open anymore. I’ve been doing some research on what it is today, and apparently an architecture firm rents out the 71st floor as its office. One article I read said that the firm has said that they’ve tried to keep it much the same, but other articles talked about the building going through lots of renovations. So, who knows? Just the thought of it not being like the way these black and white pictures show it makes me very, very sad, and somehow I think that it’s probably very, very different now.

  2. Daphne says:

    I read it was gutted – which saddened me & sickened we too. I discovered The Cloud Club only because I was looking online for wallpaper that would compliment a pendant light fixture in an entryway, well I found Bradbury & Bradbury’s Celestial, which is a reproduction of wall stenciling from The Cloud Club, observatory. When I searched online I saw the B&W photos….my heart stopped – my light fixture, called Zodiac is so much like the sphere pendants shown – it’s uncanny. My search for info, has become an obsession & I have watched the movie “The Aviator” many times for a glimpse at the place. I’d sure like to know where all the fixtures went.

    • flappergirlcreations says:

      Wow! Thanks for the info. Please feel free to drop by and share any other info you find out. I will email you if I find out any more information as well :)

      • Steven Willemann says:

        This landmark building is beloved in New York and around the world, in ways that few buildings can compare. The loss of the availability to see the Cloud Club in all its glory is surely a sad tale for us, but the joy to be able to still see this marvelous building, any time at all, should make us somewhat at peace about it. That is unlike Pennsylvania Station or the Singer Building. Those are loses beyond words. (What were they thinking?)
        Am I correct in thinking that the building under construction, out the window in the last photo, is the Empire State? That’s a great historic pic.

  3. Old Skool says:

    Hey girl, just found you thru Scouting New York’s link. Do you have room in your time machine for another? Great pix. I will have to find the book. I absolutely love the Chrysler. It has a sense of style that unfortunately is lost. One time I passed thru the lobby with my camera and practically had my head taken off. I can only imagine what the “security” people would do now. I lived in the city off and on from the mid ’50’s thru the mid’80’s and whenever I get back Chrysler is one of my touchstones.

  4. Kevin says:

    There is a place in Hell for those that foolishly gutted that space.

  5. This is so cool!! the Chrysler building in nyc is my absolute favorite. how amazing would it have been to see this in person… sigh

  6. Rick Conrad says:

    Too bad the original Pennsylvania Station was demolished, too.

  7. Posky says:

    This is a total dream. I would have paid rent to live there.

  8. Ted Otis says:

    Gorgeous shots. The one with the switchboard and the figure looking out the window in the distance is amazing, and seeing the structural skeleton of the Empire State building from this vantage is also stunning. Cue the Gershwin. – I’m not sure I agree that ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ was an inspiration for this interior design though, despite the black & white photos being evocative of the film. They’re only using natural light, and I’m guessing if taken with a flash and with the lighting on, and also if they were in color they would show off a bright celestial Art Deco world of shimmering metallic paint and glistening marble and terrazzo as opposed to the more ominous yet beautiful vibe seen here. My two cents, but who knows? Thanks for posting!

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