Ever since their respective inceptions, the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building have been two of the Big Apple’s brightest stars. Although both have since been eclipsed by other structures in size and stature, they remain two of New York City’s most storied and celebrated structures.
But, despite their similarly esteemed reputations, there is a lot that differentiates both buildings. In height, usage, cultural significance and many more aspects, there are plenty of notable distinctions to be made.
With this in mind, let’s explore all the key differences between the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building.
First on our list of considerations in our Empire State Building vs Chrysler Building comparison is the respective height of the two icons. This is taking into account its full height, including spires.
Both buildings were, at the time of their original construction, renowned for their vertical dimensions. When the Chrysler Building was completed in the year 1930, it claimed the title of world’s tallest building at 1,046 feet.
This accolade was surpassed 11 months later by the Empire State Building, which overtook it at 1,454 feet tall. This is in some part helped by its mooring mast and antenna, which alone are over 200 feet high.
Altogether, the Empire State Building is 408 feet taller than the Chrysler Building. Bearing in mind that the latter was the tallest in the world up until that point, it goes to show how groundbreaking the construction of the Empire State really was.
Usage and Tenants
Another clear distinction to make between the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building is their respective usages. In other words, what occurs within their walls and who inhabits them today.
While it’s true that both buildings were intended primarily as commercial office spaces, and continue to provide that role today, there are differences in the full range of modern uses.
The Empire State Building, for instance, features no residential units, whereas the Chrysler Building contains a set of hidden residential apartments. Walter Chrysler, the person who the building was named after, had an apartment on the top floor which remains to this day, while there are other residences on different floors.
However, the Empire State Building does beat the Chrysler Building number-wise for some other facilities. There are seven restaurants in total within the former with only a couple in the latter, although the Chrysler Building did once possess the famed restaurant Cloud Club, which occupied the 66th, 67th and 68th floors until its closure in 1979.
The Empire State Building also features more observation decks, with two main decks located on the 86th and 102nd floor, accommodating one of the most popular panoramic viewpoints in New York City. Although the Chrysler Building once had one of its own, its popularity soon dwindled and this shut down in 1945, after 15 years.
That said, there are recent reports that an observation deck might be returning to the Chrysler Building. Watch below for a rendering on what this may look like:
Of course, there are also differing tenants operating in the two buildings. The Empire State Building hosts companies including Morgan and Morgan, Qatar Airways and Walgreens, while Chrysler Building’s tenants include New Holland Capital, AMA and Columbia University.
But how did these buildings get to have these respective usages in the first place?
The Empire State Building and Chrysler Building have aligned but very different histories. To begin with, both were constructed in what would today be considered a quick timeframe, with work beginning on the Empire State in March 1930 and completing in 1931. The Chrysler Building broke ground in 1928 before opening in May 1930.
Since then, the Chrysler Building’s past includes many changes in ownership and renovations. Its first owner was William Chrysler from the powerful Chrysler Corporation, until the company sold it in 1953. In the years since, the building has gone through various different owners and tenants before undergoing major renovations in the 1990s.
In 2001, a significant stake was sold to the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, resulting in environmental sustainability upgrades. The Chrysler Building’s current owners are RFR Holding LLC who acquired the building in 2019 and have explored adding an observation deck.
Parallel to this history, the Empire State Building, another iconic New York City landmark, was undergoing its own construction during the same era. It was no coincidence that their respective construction’s overlapped; they formed part of a wider battle to create the world’s tallest building, which also included nearby 40 Wall Street.
Like the Chrysler Building, the Empire State has also seen many changes in ownership since its completion. It was initially owned by the Empire State Building Corporation, which was a group of investors led by former New York Governor Al Smith.
In 1951, Helmsley-Spear, a real estate company, acquired the building, followed by Roger L. Stevens and the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System and various others.
Today, the building is part of the portfolio of the Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT), a publicly traded real estate investment trust managed by Malkin Holdings.
Its history has also been littered with famous events, from visits by Queen Elizabeth and Winston Churchill to the famous 1945 B-25 bomber plane crash. This saw 14 people die when a B-25 bomber got lost in the fog and collided with its North Side.
So while both the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building have similar construction and ownership histories, the Empire State can be argued to have had a more tumultuous and varied past.
Another difference between the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building is their respective architectural features. While both are classic examples of early 20th Century Art Deco skyscrapers, each has structural quirks that distinguish one from the other.
Firstly, the Chrysler Building’s unique design features bold geometric patterns, intricate ornamentation, and a distinct stainless steel spire resembling a radiator cap. The use of brick, limestone, and glazed terracotta contribute to its iconic appearance, as does its terraced crown, which consists of seven layers of crescent setbacks inset with triangular windows.
Meanwhile, the Empire State Building’s clean lines and use of geometric shapes are typical of pre-World War II architecture in New York. The building’s exterior is clad in Indiana limestone and features a beautiful blend of setbacks, culminating in a stunning spire.
Indeed, its stainless steel canopies at the entrances on 33rd and 34th Streets add a touch of modernity, and the glass-enclosed bridges at the second-floor level are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The Empire State Building’s crown, illuminated at night, has become an enduring symbol of the New York City skyline.
In summary, the Empire State Building’s design largely emphasises clean lines and simplicity, showcasing the elegance of Art Deco architecture. In contrast, the Chrysler Building stands out with its intricate and ornate Art Deco detailing, making it an equally exceptional and distinctive landmark.
Tourism is another mark of distinction in the Empire State Building vs Chrysler Building discussion. This pertains not only to the amount of tourists that visit each structure each year, but also the supporting infrastructure behind this.
While both buildings are widely popular and visited by many of those who take a trip to New York City, the Empire State Building undoubtedly is the bigger attraction of the two. It has earned numerous accolades and has become a top tourist destination in the United States, even being recognised as the world’s most popular travel destination by Uber.
With such esteemed recognition and acclaim, it is no surprise that the Empire State Building attracts more than 4 million annual visitors from all corners of the globe, making it a must-visit landmark for tourists. This has been aided by visitor-friendly features such as observation decks, guided tours and dedicated exhibits.
Unlike the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building’s visitor numbers are not officially recorded due to the absence of dedicated tourist infrastructure. While it undoubtedly holds its own allure and architectural significance, the lack of extensive visitor facilities naturally leads to fewer recorded tourists compared to its counterpart.
From the moment of their respective openings, both the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building have represented cultural icons. But, in terms of worldwide cultural recognition, the Empire State eclipses the Chrysler Building – just as it does with almost every other structure on the planet.
The Empire State has been declared “America’s Favorite Building” by the American Institute of Architects, and has become synonymous with New York as a symbol of the city. Asides from this, the building has been featured in numerous films, with the 1933 blockbuster King Kong cementing its reputation.
The Chrysler Building’s elegant design has also earned it cultural significance, with the structure being named on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. This recognises its enduring significance in American architecture. It, like the Empire State Building, has also been featured heavily in popular media, such as in films like Spider Man and Men in Black.
As two enduring symbols of early 20th Century New York and the ambition of the city’s architecture, the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building are rightly celebrated for their grand stature and influence. But there is little to argue that the Empire State is in a league of its own when it comes to worldwide prominence.
Empire State vs Chrysler Building: the Verdict
Now that we’ve explored the key differences between the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building, let’s summarise each distinction by category:
|Aspect||Chrysler Building||Empire State Building|
|Height||1,046 feet||1,454 feet (408 feet taller)|
|Usage and Tenants||Primarily commercial office spaces with some hidden residential apartments (owned by RFR Holding LLC)||Primarily commercial office spaces with more diverse amenities (owned by Empire State Realty Trust)|
|History||Constructed in 1928, experienced various ownership changes and renovations, current owners: RFR Holding LLC||Constructed in 1930-1931, experienced ownership changes, current owners: Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT)|
|Architectural Features||Distinct Art Deco design, bold geometric patterns, stainless steel spire, terraced crown with triangular windows||Clean lines, pre-World War II architecture, Indiana limestone exterior, glass-enclosed bridges, illuminated crown|
|Tourism||Number of visitors not officially recorded due to limited tourist infrastructure||Over 4 million annual visitors, top tourist destination in the US, visitor-friendly features like observation decks and guided tours|
|Cultural Significance||Cultural significance recognised on the National Register of Historic Places, featured in popular media||Declared “America’s Favorite Building,” synonymous with New York City, featured in numerous films|
Can you take a tour of the Empire State Building?
The Empire State Building offers visitors a chance to delve deeper into its rich history and iconic features through a guided 90-minute tour. It includes a visit to the lovingly restored Art Deco lobby on 5th Avenue, where you can admire the building’s exquisite design and craftsmanship.
Meanwhile, the Celebrity Walk and exhibits celebrating the Empire State Building’s heritage are also part of the tour, providing insights into the building’s significance and impact on New York City’s skyline.
Can you take a tour of the Chrysler Building?
While the Chrysler Building does not offer official tours, visitors can still marvel at its stunning Art Deco lobby, which is a must-see attraction. Entrance to the lobby is free, and there are no tickets required. You can visit the lobby anytime during the building’s open hours, which are from 8:00 am to 6 pm (18:00) on weekdays.
Inside, you’ll be greeted by a breathtaking mural on the ceiling, an impressive clock, and beautifully designed elevators, each adorned with custom-made doors. Although there are no guided tours, the opportunity to experience the opulence of the lobby and its architectural splendour makes it a worthwhile visit.
We hope you have enjoyed our handy comparative guide to Empire State Building vs Chrysler Building. Each building, in its own way, adds to the allure and splendour of New York City’s skyline, inviting admiration and appreciation for the human ingenuity that crafted these extraordinary structures.
Want to know more about the Big Apple’s best architecture? If so, take a look at our guide to , and why Madison Square Garden is called a Garden. Or, check out why skyscrapers are called skyscrapers in the first place.
Or, if you’d like more definitions on building and architecture vocabulary, take a look at our range of building wikis.
Last Updated on 7 September 2023 by Michael