The twin towers of the World Trade
Center were more than just buildings. They
were proof of New York's belief in itself.
Built at a time when New York's future was
cloudy, the towers restored confidence and
stopped the decline of lower Manhattan.
Brash, glitzy, and grand, they quickly
became symbols of New York.
The towers were not always popular. A
world trade center was first proposed in
1960 by the Downtown-Lower Manhattan
Development Association to revitalize
seedy "radio row," dominated by
electronic stores. Chase Manhattan Bank
Chairman David Rockefeller, founder of the
development association, and his brother,
Nelson, New York governor, pushed hard for
the project, insisting it would benefit
the entire city.
In 1962, the Port Authority of New York
and New Jersey began plans to build the
center. Minoru Yamasaki and Associates of
Michigan, and Emery Roth & Sons, P.C.,
were hired as architects. Eventually,
Yamasaki decided on two huge towers.
Critics charged that a modern monolith
would rob New York of character, ruin the
skyline, disrupt television reception, and
strain city services.
However, the project was approved and
construction began in 1965. Five streets
were closed off and 164 buildings
demolished to create the 16-acre site.
Construction required the excavation of
more than 1.2 million cubic yards of earth
which created 23.5 acres of land along the
Hudson River, now Battery City Park, a
complex of four 60-story skyscrapers and
four apartment buildings.
Building the World Trade Center took
200,000 tons of steel, 425,000 cubic yards
of concrete, 600,000 square feet of glass,
and 12,000 miles of electric cables.
During peak construction periods, 3,500
people worked at the site. A total of
10,000 people worked on the towers; 60
died during its construction.
WTC was made up
- 200,000 tons of steel
- 425,000 cubic yards of
- 600,000 square feet of glass
- 12,000 miles of electric
- More WTC stats
- Had 110 floors
- Had its own zip code, 10048
- Weighed 1.5 million tons
- Contained 198 miles of heating ducts
- Used 23,000 fluorescent light bulbs
- Was visible from 20 miles away
The towers were dedicated in 1973. They
were the world's tallest buildings for
only a short time, since the Sears Tower
in Chicago was dedicated a month later.
However, the north tower sported a
360-foot television mast that allowed it
to technically remain the world's tallest
building. A hotel, a shopping plaza, and
three smaller buildings nearby completed
The twin towers became the most popular
postcard image in the world. Some three
dozen movies were made at the towers,
including the 1976 remake of King Kong.
Thousands of Visitors
The buildings weighed more than 1.5
million tons and contained 198 miles of
heating ducts and 23,000 fluorescent light
bulbs. Each of the towers had 110 floors,
and each floor was roughly 50,000 square
feet large. Shopping malls with
restaurants, stores, and barbershops
dotted the concourses. The mall underneath
the towers contained another 75 stores.
The six basements also included two New
York subway stations and the PATH trains
to New Jersey used by 150,000 people
Some 50,000 people worked in the
buildings, while another 200,000 visited
or passed through each day. The top floor
observation deck had 26,000 visitors
daily, who could see for 45 miles on a
clear day. From the ground, the towers
were visible for at least 20 miles.
The 43,600 windows were washed
automatically, while the air conditioning
system was the world's largest, with
60,000 tons of cooling capacity. It took
250,000 cans of paint each year to spruce
up the towers.
Each tower had 97 elevators for passengers
and six for freight. Express elevators
zoomed skyward at 27 feet per second,
reaching the top in 4.8 minutes. More than
300 computer main frames in the towers
served the towers' occupants.
Most of the nearly 300 tenants were
blue-chip firms enjoying the prestige of
one of the world's most glamorous business
addresses. Eight law firms, six banks,
five stock brokerage houses, and three
insurance companies had their headquarters
in the twin towers. A number of foreign
firms, such as the Bank of Yokohama, also
had offices there. The complex had its own
zip code, 10048.
New York City
In 1976, the elegant Windows on the
World restaurant opened at the top of the
north tower, followed by Cellar in the
Sky. The top floor restaurants attracted
such performers as Frank Sinatra, John
Lennon, Liza Minnelli, and Mick Jagger.
Far below, restaurants in the basement
concourse served 30,000 cups of coffee
each day, while 87 tons of food was
delivered to the towers daily.
Before their collapse, 19 murders were
committed and 17 babies born in the
towers. They also contained nine chapels
representing six different faiths.
As the towers became more famous, they
attracted daredevils. Three men parachuted
from the top, while one dozen mountain
climbers scaled the outside. In 1974 a
Frenchman walked a tightrope between the
In 1993, terrorists drove a truck
packed with 1,100 pounds of explosives
into the basement parking garage at the
World Trade Center. Despite the size of
the blast, only six people were killed and
1,000 injured. After that bombing, the
number of parking spaces in the basement
garage was reduced from 1,000 to
Security in the buildings was
considerable. The lobby in each building
had 12 X-ray machines and 16 concierge
desks. The towers employed over 300
security personnel, used 300 security
cameras, and featured 828 emergency doors.
The basements of the World Trade Center
also contained vast vaults used by the
COMEX metals trading division of the New
York Mercantile Exchange. Some 3,800 gold
bars, weighing 12 tons and worth more than
$100 million, lie buried under the
mountains of rubble left after the attack.
Authorities say the gold has never been
In 1999, New York businessman Larry
Silverstein purchased the World Trade
Center's 99-year lease on the twin towers
for $3.2 billion from the Port Authority
of New York and New Jersey. Since the
attack, Silverstein has vowed to rebuild,
suggesting that four smaller towers is a
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