History of the World Trade Center

After the horrific events of September 2001, the twin towers of the World Trade Center were no more. The world watched in shock as the towers collapsed in plumes of dark smoke and the Manhattan skyline was changed forever. Before this event, the Twin Towers were icons of New York City and one of the key elements of Manhattan.

Today, we all know about the attack on the towers and mourn the loss of these icons. In order to understand what was lost that day, it could be useful to delve into the history of the World Trade Center itself. At the time of the destruction, the World Trade Center Towers hosted around 500 businesses and has about 50,000 employees working inside it. They have an interesting history, so let’s take a look at this now:

The Origins of the World Trade Center

World Trade Center under construction in 1971

It was in 1946 that the New York State Legislature approved the design and development of a new world trade mart. It was to be located in downtown Manhattan, which was and still is one of the best regions of the New York State. The concept of this world trade mart was created by David Sholtz, an acclaimed real estate developer. However, these were early days, and it was only in 1958 that the plans for a multimillion square foot complex were announced by David Rockefeller, the vice chair of the Chase Manhattan Bank.

The plans for this complex were for the east side of Lower Manhattan. Originally, the plan proposed was for one building comprising of 70 stories. As we know, the plan was eventually changed to this twin tower design. Finally, the Port Authority in New York and New Jersey gave their approval and took the responsibility of overseeing this project.

Protests Over Building

Before the construction of the WTC

Before such a huge project could be undertaken, several residential and commercial structures had to be demolished to make room for it. When these places were slated for their demolition, there was naturally a hue and cry over the process. People protested against the building, delaying construction for a whole four years.

Eventually, though, the building plans were approved and also unveiled by Minoru Yamasaki, the main architect in charge of the World Trade Center project in 1964. These were different plans from the original one, and called for a whole complex spanning around 15 million square feet. This area was to hold around seven buildings. Among these, the two tower design features were the ones that would stand out the most, even exceeding the height of the Empire State Building by a hundred feet. This would then make them the tallest buildings in the world, though only for a short time.

The Chicago Sears building was completed the very next year and exceeded the twin towers in height. At the time of their destruction, in 2001, the World Trade Center twin towers were ranked as the fifth and sixth tallest buildings in the world.

The Building Process

Building arrangement

With the final plans now approved, the construction of the World Trade Center towers started in the year 1966. In 1970, the north tower was finished, while the south tower saw completion in 1971. The construction of each tower used a new kind of drywall system that used steel cores for reinforcement. This made them the first kind of skyscrapers that were built without masonry.

The two twin towers had 110 stories each and stood at 1362 and 1368 feet. All in all, the World Trade Center was finally unveiled and opened to the public in 1973.

More Than Buildings

Interior of the South Tower lobby

Some would assert that the twin towers and the World Trade Center, in general, were more than just structures built for commercial purposes. They were built during an era when the future of New York seemed uncertain. After the feat was accomplished, the towers seemed to renew the faith and belief of New York in itself. Lower Manhattan was going through a decline at that point in time, and the World Trade Center project seemed to halt it for good.

Moreover, the towers themselves became symbols of what New York stood for. They were grand, glitzy, and even a bit loud in their appearance. Those who have been to New York City might agree that these adjectives could be applied to the city and the people as a whole.

A Landmark of New York City

Windows on the World restaurant

With towers as tall as the World Trade Center twin features, it was only logical that they became a major New York City landmark. The year after the World Trade Center opened, Philippe Petit, a French high-wire artist, walked across a cable from the top of one tower to another. He used no safety net, and his feat made headlines throughout the globe.

Additionally, the north tower has a restaurant called’ Windows on the World’ on its top stories. This world-famous restaurant opened in 1976 and was described by critics as being one of the finest dining experiences in the whole world. Not only that, but it also gave its guests some amazing and unmatched views of the city.

The south tower had its own attractions, including the ‘Top of the World’ a public observation deck. This space provided astounding views for both tourists and native New Yorkers.

The world also saw the World Trade Center as being a part of several movies. The most memorable ones are probably ‘Escape from New York’, ‘Superman’, and ‘King Kong’ (1976).

The Complex

Buildings of the WTC

In addition to the famous twin towers, there were four other buildings and a hotel that were built around a landscaped plaza. This made up the whole complex, which also included a mall right below the plaza. The mall here was the largest of its kind in the Lower Manhattan area. There were also six basements, with two subway stations and PATH train stop to New Jersey.

This complex also boasted its very own zip code, 10048. In addition to the thousands of employees, it’s estimated that about 200,000 people passed through the complex or visited its attractions every single day.

The First Bombing

After the 1993 bombing

While we may think of the 2001 attacks as the only bombing of the World Trade Center, there was a previous incident in 1993. That year, some terrorist drove their truck into the parking garage in the basement of the World Trade Center. The truck was loaded with around 1,100 pounds of explosives.

The resulting blast was sizeable and made a crater which was around five stories in height and 22 feet in width. However, the fatalities were limited to six people, while the injured number around a thousand. Within a month, the towers were repaired and cleaned, after which they were reopened.

The 9-11-2001 Bombing

A fireball in the middle of the September 2001 attacks

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in September 2001 need no introduction. There were two planes that flew into the twin towers, with huge explosions causing the demolition of both buildings. The towers were completely destroyed, while about 2,749 people lost their lives.

Plans for Rebuilding

The National September 11 Memorial

Even though they’ve been gone for many years, the World Trade Center twin towers are still major icons of New York City. The people of New York and the whole of America still remember the buildings and pass on the memories to their future generations. It’s hence no surprise that there have been several attempts to rebuild the towers and recapture their glory.

In the year 2002, there were several design contests for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. The contests also included designs for a memorial honoring the victims of 9/11. While the finalists were unveiled the same year, the designs received a lot of criticisms for being too flat and boring. This was mainly because the contributions gave too much importance to office space. There was then another round held in December.

It was in February 2003 that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation finally chose Daniel Libeskind’s entry. Daniel Libeskind is an architect who worked on a design for the 16 aces of the World Trade Center site. His design included the memorial, a Freedom Tower, a hanging garden, and a cultural center. The Freedom Tower was designed to be about 1776 feet in height.

There were several obstructions to the rebuilding plans, but they eventually did succeed. There were and still are security concerns surrounding this area, so the plans for two new World Trade Center towers are under discussion for now. In the middle of 2015, Silverstein Properties had designed for the new twin towers, but the plans were postponed due to the lack of an anchor tenant. There is still intent to start the work on these towers even without the signature of a tenant, but it remains to be seen whether construction will be successful or not.


Today, we can visit the site of the World Trade Center and view the memorial there. There’s also a Memorial Museum where one can learn about the 9/11 attacks or just contemplate the scale of the tragedy that took place. We can also see the new One World Trade Center that opened in 2014. Suffice to say, however, that nothing can replace the World Trade Center Towers just yet. The attacks on these buildings led to a ripple effect on the whole world, so we cannot afford to forget their history.