In reporting in the wake of 9/11, I did a piece on the skyscrapers of New York, and spoke with the people at the Skyscraper Museum, which was about to move to new digs at the World Trade Center when the towers were reduced to rubble. (The museum has since relocated nearby.)
I think it was someone there who noted that the shorthand verdict among historians of architecture was that the Twin Towers were the biggest skyscrapers in New York, the Empire State Building the most famous, and the Chrysler Building the most beautiful. Seemed to make sense then, and today, as that adage came back to me in the wake of the Chrysler bankruptcy.
Sure, Chrysler hasn’t owned the building in forever, and the upper stories behind the glorious Art Deco ornamentation are apparently a dusty unused attic, if I recall. But at the risk of getting sloppy and sentimental, they really don’t build ’em like they used to.
BTW, writing this I imperfectly recall a similar adage about the four major basilicas of Rome: That St. Peter’s is the largest, St. John Lateran the most important, St. Mary Major the richest (or most beautiful?) and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls the…? Aiuto, per favore.