In January of 1972 the first tenants moved into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, an astounding piece of architecture that completed the twin towers of the massive development. At their completion the towers were the tallest buildings in the world (a short-lived distinction, since the taller Sears Tower in Chicago was completed in May 1973).
According to a timeline on the World Trade Center website (www.wtc.com), the center was conceived in the early 1960s by the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Development Association to revitalize the seedy “Radio Row,” dominated by electronic stores. Chase Manhattan Bank chairman David Rockefeller, founder of the development association, and his brother, New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, pushed hard for the project, insisting it would benefit the entire city.
In 1962, plans for the project began in earnest, with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey – the controlling authority of the project — eventually settling on the architectural firm of Minoru Yamasaki and Associates of Michigan to design the complex. After considering hundreds of different building configurations, Yamasaki eventually focused the center’s design on two soaring towers, 110 stories tall. At the unveiling of the plans, public sentiment ranged from astonishment at the sheer size of the towers, to both thrill and dismay at their monolithic, contemporary design. Critics charged that the modern towers would rob New York City of its character, ruin the skyline, disrupt television reception and strain city services. Nevertheless, construction on the North Tower began in 1968; construction of the South Tower would commence in January 1969.
In order to create the 16-acre World Trade Center site, five streets were closed off and 164 buildings were demolished. Construction required the excavation of more than 1.2 million cubic yards of earth, which was used to create 23.5 acres of land along the Hudson River, now part of Battery Park City in lower Manhattan. Four smaller buildings and a hotel, all built nearby around a central landscaped plaza, completed the complex. The mall at the World Trade Center, located immediately below the plaza, was the largest shopping mall in lower Manhattan. The six basements housed two subway stations and a stop on the PATH trains to New Jersey.
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
In 1970, the North Tower — 1 WTC — was topped out, although the tower was not fully completed until 1972. The South Tower was topped out in 1971; the first tenants arrived in January 1972.
Eventually, some 50,000 people would work in the buildings, while another 200,000 visited or passed through each day. The complex was large enough to warrant its own zip code, 10048.
In July 2001, developer and businessman Larry Silverstein completed the largest real estate transaction in New York history by acquiring the World Trade Center for $3.2 billion. Six weeks later, the twin towers were destroyed by terrorist attacks on 9/11.