Competition for "world's tallest building" title
Construction of the Bank of Manhattan Building at 40 Wall Street began in 1928, with a planned height of 840 feet (260 m), making it 135 feet (41 m) taller than the nearby Woolworth Building, completed in 1913. More importantly, the plans were designed to be two feet taller than the Chrysler Building, which was in an ostensible competition to be the world's tallest building.
To stay ahead in the race, the architects of 40 Wall Street changed their originally announced height of 840 feet (260 m), or 68 stories, to 927 feet (283 m), or 71 stories, making their building, upon completion in May 1930, the tallest in the world. This triumph turned out to be short-lived.
Uptown at 405 Lexington Avenue, the Chrysler Building developers had plans in the works to top 40 Wall Street. By October 1929, tycoon Walter Chrysler used his secret weapon to win the race to the top: a 125-foot (38 m) stainless steel spire was clandestinely assembled in the Chrysler Building's crown and hoisted into place, bringing it to a height of 77 stories, or 1,046 feet (319 m). Once completed on May 28, 1930, the Chrysler Building surpassed 40 Wall Street as the tallest building in the world, fulfilling Chrysler's dream.
Upset by Chrysler’s victory, Shreve & Lamb, consulting architects of 40 Wall Street, wrote a newspaper article claiming that their building was the tallest, since it contained the world's highest usable floor. They pointed out that the observation deck in the Bank of Manhattan Building was nearly 100 feet (30 m) above the top floor in the Chrysler Building, whose surpassing spire was strictly ornamental and essentially inaccessible. This became a moot point when the Empire State Building was completed eleven months later in 1931, becoming the world’s tallest building in both of those categories, at 1,250 feet (380 m).