In the late-1920s, as New York’s economy boomed like never before, builders were in a mad dash to erect the world’s largest skyscraper. The main competition was between 40 Wall Street’s Bank of Manhattan building and the Chrysler Building, an elaborate Art Deco structure conceived by car mogul Walter Chrysler as a “monument to me.” Both towers tried to best each other by adding more floors to their design, and the race really heated up in August 1929, when General Motors executive John J. Raskob and former New York Governor Al Smith announced plans for the Empire State Building.
Upon learning that the Empire State would be 1,000 feet tall, Chrysler changed his plans a final time and fixed a stainless steel spire to the top of his skyscraper. The addition saw the Chrysler Building soar to a record 1,048 feet, but unfortunately for Chrysler, Raskob and Smith simply went back to the drawing board and returned with an even taller design for the Empire State Building. When completed in 1931, the colossus loomed 1,250 feet over the streets of Midtown Manhattan. It would remain the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years until the completion of the first World Trade Center tower in 1970.
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