It was still hot in the Big Apple. Very hot. Still 95 degrees, and that was early in the day as we were on our way to breakfast.

On the second day, we visited Tiffany the Empire State Building, interspersed with a few pit stops because of the heat. Tiffany because I had some birthday money left over and wanted to buy myself something and it’s a ‘must do’ in New York. (Actually, it’s a ‘must do’ anywhere, in my opinion. There is a look and feel in them that I love.). As we were walking along Fifth Avenue, we popped into Saks, largely because it was air-conditioned and we needed to cool down. We managed to get a bit of a make-over – we were both ‘glowing’ when we got there. Like most stores, the cosmetics section is at the front and the assistants took pity on us. Either that or we looked so bedraggled that we were lowering the tone. The lovely ladies gave us some more water before we continued on our journey.

The last time I’d been to New York I had wanted to visit the Empire State but the weather was bad and the winds were too high. Like so many tall buildings, they close the viewing platforms in weather like that, so this was to be my first time.

View from the Empire State viewing platform

The Empire State Building is an example of that beautiful Art Deco design that was prevalent in New York in the 1930s. One of the things that about New York that sets it aside from other cities. The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world until 1970. It’s still an imposing sight.

It was built as an office block, although as its opening coincided with the Great Depression, much of it was empty for some time. The observation decks were opened to the public, for a fee, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that it actually started to make a profit.

There is, understandably, a lot of security there, and you get to the viewing platform by taking a series of lifts (they don’t want random people popping into the office areas, do they?). There is a lot of information about the building inside the public area at the top of the building. If you feel so inclined, you can have your photograph taken with someone dressed up as King Kong.

Nowadays there is a bar on the ground floor, as well as the ubiquitous gift shop and a drug store. We had a couple of drinks in the bar, to fortify ourselves before stepping outside again.

The next day was our last, and we visited Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building, another Art Deco skyscraper. I’d stayed further along in East 42nd on my first visit to NY, but I hadn’t been inside, so it was a treat for me too.

The Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world for only 11 months before the Empire State took over. It was the headquarters of the Chrysler Corporation from 1930 until the mid-1950s. An interesting fact about it is that the corporation didn’t pay for it, Walter P Chrysler paid for it himself. He wanted his family to inherit it rather than the company.

There are no tours, but the ground entrance floor is open to the public and is stunning. Lots of marble and engravings and some useful facts. And it was cool.

Some interesting, little-known facts about the Chrysler Building:

1. There used to be a Speakeasy near to the top of the building. Called the Cloud Club, it was originally built for the Texaco company which occupied 14 floors. It was closed in the late 1970s to make way for more offices.

2. Walter P Chrysler had an apartment on the top floor. There was also another apartment on the 61st floor. This was where photographer Margaret Bourke-White, famous for her photographs of Skyscrapers, lived.

3. In the early days of the building, there was a water-bottling plant in the basement.

4. The observation deck on the 71st floor closed to the public in 1945.

5. There was a car showroom on the first two floors.

6. The top of the spire is filled with reinforced concrete.

7. Everyone (me included) thinks that the top of the building is made from hub caps. Not so. It’s actually a German-made sheet of metal crafted to look that way.

8. The Chrysler Building and the building at 40 Wall Street were in competition to be the world’s tallest building before the Empire State was built. Thus the spire was constructed in secret, in four separate pieces. It took about an hour and a half to put them on the top of the building.

From here, we walked a short distance up to Grand Central Station. Grand Central opened in 1871 as Grand Central Depot. It wasn’t until February 1913 that it opened to the public as Grand Central Terminal, which is still its correct title. One of its most stunning features is the astronomical ceiling in the main hall, designed in 1912.

Grand Central Terminal

Surprisingly, what should be east is west and vice versa on the ceiling. The ceiling was allowed to fall into disrepair, started to leak and within 11 years it was in a very sad state. It wasn’t until 1944 that work was undertaken to repair and restore it. In fact, a completely new mural was painted, in much less detail than the original.

That said, it is still a beautiful concourse and well worth a visit. Especially as there are coffee shops and places to eat in the surrounding areas. We didn’t have time to hang around here, we had a ‘plane to catch.

© Susan Shirley 2018


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