Amongst The Stars At The Top Of The Chrysler Building

The 71st floor observatory of the Chrysler Building, circa 1930. Wow:


Opened in 1930, the observatory featured a solar system motif, complete with a starburst roof and planet-like lamps. The observatory closed in 1945, and was gutted sometime later. More pictures here; sad pictures of the upper floors in an abandoned state here (also since gutted).

Weekend discussion: what modern New York City interior makes you go “wow” in the same way this does?


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  1. I almost hate to ask, but what are the observatory and Cloud Club spaces used for now?

    • There is a dentist’s office in the spire. It was referenced on Mad Men last season and i think there was an article in the times or something a few years ago

    • The observatory was lost years ago. It was used to house radio broadcasting equipment. The windows were left open and it became a roost for birds. It was recently remodeled and is used for office space.

      The Cloud Club’s story is much worse. The club mostly stood intact until March of 2000 when the current owners gutted it to make open plan office space. 🙁

  2. That room, or a reproduction of it is in The Aviator (2004). It’s Alec Baldwin’s office. Id say it’s Thee Ultimate office, with those windows and celestial paintings on the wall?! Remarkable.

  3. Why do people have to mess with a good thing?

  4. I went to the linked sites before coming back here. Thanks Scout. It is a shame that these spaces are not used for their original purpose. Hard to believe that such an iconic structure has allowed some of its spaces to deteriorate. What are chances that some of the Scout magic will allow you access? After all you seem to get into so many interesting places. Then again the building’s owner may not want us to see what is or is not up there.

  5. Thanks Scout – I always wondered what the inside looked like.

  6. I wish I could see:
    old Penn Station when it was clean;
    the original AIG Building’s Observation Level (not public);
    the RKO Theater in Rock Center (demolished) (to make an analogy: Radio City is to RKO, as Notre Dame de Paris is to Sainte Chapelle);
    the lobbies of the Woolworth and Bank of NY towers on Broadway;
    Hearst Tower Atrium.
    I love the MMA, Bx Botanical Garden atrium, the Winter Garden by Pelli, the TWA Terninal by Pelli’s mentor Saarinen, the Gugg, the NYPL, Bialystoker Synagogue, Met Opera, parts of the UN, St Peters in CitiCorp, GCT, the Domes of CU’s Low Library, Riverside Church Tower, Yankee Stadium and CitiField, the courtyards of the old Barnes & Noble Bldg on Ladies Mile and the Eagle Condo on Fulton Landing.

  7. The main reading room at the central library! Yow.

  8. It has always been my dream to restore and reopen the Cloud Club ever since I first heard it had existed. I’m sure it made the Rainbow Room seem like Long Island catering hall.

  9. Back in the late ’80s, I was dating the assistant manager of the Rainbow Room. I had the run of the place, including the private rooms, which were decorated with fabulous Bakelite radios. I celebrated my 30th birthday there. I loved that place; it made me think of every nightclub I’d ever seen in a ’30s film.

    The interior that most recently took my breath away is the newly-restored Eldridge Street Synagogue.

    I’m also particularly fond of the lobby of the Met Life building, and wanted to take photos in there once, but they wouldn’t let me.

    There’s also the Hudson Theater, attached to the Millennium Broadway Hotel, where renovation uncovered a Tiffany glass-tile front to the mezzanine, balconies, and proscenium.

    Lord, I’m sure there’s more. This town has a million gorgeous interiors!

    • I saw Woody Herman with a small group in the Rainbow Room in the early ’80’s. Classy joint. Met Life? Oh you must mean the Pan Am building, at least that is what I still call it.

  10. Saw all of these when the public was still allowed in, or in some cases when they still stood:

    1) Ground floor banking room of the former Bowery Savings Bank on E. 42nd, now Cipriani, and not generally accessible
    2) Ground floor banking room of the former Greenwich Savings Bank on Sixth @35-36, now a party space, and likewise
    3) Woolworth Building lobby, which I believe is landmarked,but nonetheless is now entirely closed off to the general public;
    4) The former Police HQ lobby on Centre Street, likewise;
    5) The lobby of the former New York Central/Helmsley Building through which one could walk directly through from the Pan Am[now Met Life] building to Park Avenue, and be able to glimpse the elevator interiors, with red lacquer walls and sky blue ceilings, now forbidden to trespass w/o business within;
    6) The lobby of the Chrysler Building, which was if I remember closed off for a time after 9/11 but is now open, again;
    7) The former Cunard lobby on Broadway, near Bowling Green;
    8) Worn down interiors of the former Rivoli Theater @Bway & 49th; the former Loew’s 84th, at Bway & 84th; the former Metro at Bway & 99th;
    9) Interior of the Helen Hayes Theater, razed for the brutalist Marriott in Times Square (three or four other theaters torn down at the same time, why all the remaining theaters are now landmarked).

    Not interior, but: the wood-planked steps that led up and down from each tower on the pedestrian walkway, on the Brooklyn Bridge, eliminated entirely to allow more bike traffic.

  11. Cloud Club space:I worked on a design for a potential client (which never was built) and saw a lot if it. The interior had been completely demolished, except for a lower floor which had been the club’s entry area and included a kind of Olde English pub room, which was still intact. Perhaps the building owners just didn’t want to risk that the space might be landmarked; on the other hand, the whole thing leaked like a sieve from the metal “helmet” of the building, so perhaps the interior finishes had already been ruined. Still, it was a pretty wonderful space, the dining room a two-story volume, unbelievable views in all directions. We looked at the dental office, too. Every treatment room had its own triangular window, and the dentist said that whenever the weather was bad people would cancel their appointments becasue they knew there would be no views that day. Above that was supposed to be a sort of gym space, and further up a (very small) architectural office, supposedly still in existence (then).

  12. The Chrysler Building lobby was still good last time I was there … to scout it… was difficult to clear and expensive if it did clear. we went elsewhere, but it will always be a kewl building 🙂 Nice find @ observatory 🙂

  13. Here are some more great photos of the Cloud Club in its heyday.

  14. I have had the privilege to be in the cloud club back in late 2000/early 2001. Needless to say it was in shambles. Windows left wide open so the floors were all warped up. Saw the hieroglyphic room too. WAY COOL. Btw the dentist is not in the same space. He has the top floor. I’ve even been in the space where the triangular windows are and u have to bend down to see thru them. Also was at a window that was right next to one of the gargoyles. Chrysler is one of the coolest buildings in the NYC.

    Also someone mentioned the AIG building at 70 pine st and I have been in the observatory room up there too. Very nice up there but surprisingly very small.

  15. I walk past the lobby to the NY Film Center in Hell’s Kitchen every morning. I make a point to stop by and get lost for a bit every month or so.

  16. I live pretty close to the NY Film Center and always admire the outside. I guess I’m a fool for not having gone in yet!

    As for the Chrysler Building…one of my favorite buildings (particularly of the skyscraper variety) in the city. Much better than the ESB. I would love to get up to that top one day – I’ve been at various offices, but never up there….