The Tunisian Consulate wouldn't let us enter
Attempt to get into the spire. walk right by security guard, Elevator ding, Turned away earlier, made it even sweeter
Up to top, no access
Down, two ladies join us in elevator, chat OK, tower "oh, we work on the 71st floor, ask Colleen."
Huddled against wall on lobby level. Back up
Colleen, "I can't let you out there - the only access is in the Conference Rm, Bd meeting
Who's going to win this one?
We huddled on the sidewalk up against the building. Some New Yorkers get a bit perturbed if too many tourists block or impede their movement to wherever they’re going. I shared the plan - that I had once been up into the spire at the top of the building (where the stainless steel arches were punctuated by triangular windows) and we were going to try it in a few minutes. I described the lobby layout, the locations of the guards and the shortest route into an elevator. I cautioned them that we had to look like we belonged in that building. It amazes me how often I get into unauthorized areas by simply appearing that I have been authorized. To hide our Okieness, we needed to put away alll cameras, maps, food, and anything else that screamed ‘tourist’. Once we were ready, I told the students to follow me to an open elevator, act businesslike, not make eye contact, walk briskly, & not to gawk. We made it past the guards. As we approached the bank of elevators, I heard the familiar ding announcing the arrival of an elevator. This gave us a sense of urgency and purpose. Only a couple of people got off and we slid inside the cab while I am hurriedly punching the top floor button. The sooner those doors closed, the sooner I would breathe a sigh of relief.
My travel buddy, Jerry, and I were in New York City for Thanksgiving 1983. We were just wandering around midtown one day. We admired the lobby and the elevator cars, each inlaid with wood from all over the globe. On a whim, we got in one and punched a button for the top floor. How cool would it be to look around the private club that was in the spire.
Doors were unlocked, free reign. Dusty, store room
see remnants of the club in the Art Deco details in the trim, wallpaper, light fixtures, and what we could see of the carpet.
The Chrysler Building opened in 1931 with a star-themed observatory called the 'Celestial' in the spire on the 71st floor. There were views of the city from all four sides for 50¢. The observation deck closed in 1945.
Jerry and I spent the 1983 Thanksgiving holiday in New York City. A few hilites: Norman Vincent Peale sermon, WTC observation deck, Letterman, Trump Tower, Met opera: Luciano Pavarotti, Leona Mitchell, and Sherrill Milnes, and American Buffalo with Al Pacino. One afternoon, on our way to the 5th Ave Public Library, we passed the Chrysler Building and decided to try to get up into the spire. We took an elevator up as high as we could. When we stepped out, the area was small and we realized we were in the crown of the building. We tried a door and - it opened. Whoa (this was well before increased security). We wandered through the abandoned spaces. We could see remnants of the private club from the 30s and 40s. We were able to look out the triangular windows to the city below. Twas strange to realize how few people saw the inside of the spire.
In 1931 when the Chrysler Building opened, it had an observatory called the “Celestial” in the spire on the 71st floor. You could take in views of the city from all four sides for fifty cents. The star-themed observation deck closed down in 1945 and it’s now occupied by a private firm.
Below the Celestial, on the 66th to 68th floors, the Cloud Club was the inspiration for many of the others. It was initially designed for Texaco, which occupied 14 floors of the Chrysler Building, and used as a restaurant for executives. It opened with 300 members of New York City’s business elite and only men were allowed to enter for many decades.
The Cloud Club and the Chrysler Building was designed by William van Alan, and had amenities: a barber shop, a humidor, lockers for members to store their own alcohol of choice, and a wood-paneled bar that was used to hide alcohol during Prohibition. There was a stock ticker for the high powered financiers who frequented the club.
The Cloud Club closed in 1979. There were “various attempts in the early 1980’s to fill the three floors a nightclub, a disco, and a lunch club for bankers but they all failed.
We tried to get up into the very top spires but could find no access, not even through the Tunisian Consulate on the 65th floor. This was long before enhanced security and before the Consulate moved to Beekman Place. Dejectedly, I said, well we tried. On our way down we met two ladies who were sympathetic to our efforts to explore the building. "Oh, we work on the 71st floor, go back up and ask Colleen.” Colleen was the receptionist in their office. On the 71st floor there is a balcony at the level of the gargoyles. Down at the lobby level, I motioned to the students to squeeze into the corner that wasn’t visible to the guards. Seeing a group not get off the elevator and go right back up would be a red flag that I didn’t want to risk. No one else got on, I punched Floor 71 and Shut Doors.
We saw Colleen but she was reluctant to let us onto the balcony since the only access was through the corporation's boardroom & she was preparing for a meeting in 3 minutes. We, of course, cared about none of that & continued our plea. She relented & led us through the boardroom to the balcony.
It was spectacular. The sun was setting on the towers of Manhattan. The huge gargoyles were magnificent in their Deco stainless steel. It was a treat. We had promised Colleen we would not stay out there long, so we went on down to the lobby, walked smugly past the guards, & back to the New York City the normal person sees.
© James Robert Watson, PhD, 1995, 2016