World Trade Center: Before 9/11

By Brandon McCombs - Originally created and uploaded to the English Wikipedia (under the same filename) by Brandon McCombs, aka Glitch26., CC BY-SA 3.0,
The World Trade Center as seen from the South in July 2001. (Image by Brandon McCombs via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1973, the World Trade Center in New York was dedicated.

Here are some things you may not have known about the building, besides its destruction on Sept. 11, 2001.

The site of the World Trade Center was originally under the Hudson River. The river was filled in the area starting in 1797. It later became home to Lower Manhattan’s Radio Row. It was known as such due to the large number of electronics wholesalers and retailers.

The idea of building something called a world trade center was first proposed in 1943. The idea was to use the center as a place to showcase international trade and to show it as a force for good in the world. The plans sputtered through the 1940s and 50s. David Rockefeller, the younger brother of then-New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, suggested a site in Lower Manhattan and that it be built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The site, on the west side of Lower Manhattan was selected as a compromise with New Jersey, which also had the Port Authority take over the operation of its Hudson and Manhattan Railroad.

The Port Authority purchased 13 square blocks of real estate. It gave each of the displaced businesses $3,000, and demolished the area in March 1965.

The complex consisted of seven buildings, six of which were inside the boundaries of Vesey, West, Church and Liberty streets.

One and Two World Trade Center, the twin towers, were designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki, and were originally planned to be 80 stories tall. However, to account for the Port Authority’s requirement for 10 million square feet of office space, the buildings ended up being 110 stories tall. The footprint of each tower was a 208-foot square. Besides their height, the buildings’ defining characteristics were probably their narrow windows. The windows were just 18 inches wide, which was partially inspired by Yamasaki’s fear of heights and desire to make those in the building feel secure.

The buildings had many technological breakthroughs, perhaps the most notable was the elevator system. The buildings featured ‘sky lobbies” which is where people would switch from large express elevators to a local elevator to reach their destination, much like the New York Subway system. This allowed the architect to stack elevators instead of running them side by side. The innovation increased the amount of usable space from 62 percent to 75 percent. The buildings had a total of 95 elevators.

The Towers were the subject of several controversies. These included the use of eminent domain to acquire the land, what appeared to be the Port Authority subsidizing office space, and architectural criticism. Writer Lewis Mumford described the towers as “the boxes that the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building came in.”

The buildings were the world’s tallest from 1972 to 1974, losing the title to Chicago’s Sears Tower.

In 1975, the North Tower was the site of a fire that damaged several floors. The fire was caused by frayed telephone cables. In 1993, a bomb was detonated in the parking garage under the North Tower. Six people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured.

On September 11, 2001, the towers were destroyed after highjacked passenger jets were flown into them. 2,753 people died, including 343 New York firefighters, 37 Port Authority police officers and 23 New York police officers.

Construction began on the new One World Trade Center in 2006 and it opened in November 2014. It is the tallest building in the United States at 1,776 feet.

Our question: In the Simpsons’ episode “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson,” what beverage does Homer reject from a food vendor near the World Trade Center in favor of crab juice?

Today is Independence Day in Senegal, Peace Day in Angola and Childrens’ Day in Hong Kong.

It’s Vitamin C Day, World Rat Day and Hug a Newsperson Day.

It’s the birthday of dancer Arthur Murray, writer Maya Angelou and actor Robert Downey Jr.

Because we’ve recently done a topic from 1973, we will spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1994, the top song in the U.S. was “The Sign” by Ace of Base.

The No. 1 movie was “Major League II,” while the novel “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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