WTC Concept and History

The concept for a world trade center began with real estate developer and former Florida governor David Schultz. In 1945, Schultz submitted a proposal to create a center for world trade to revitalize lower Manhattan and boost the post-war economy through international trade. Schultz suggested the East River as the location for his World Trade Center and the proposed site was purchased in 1946. However, plans to build the center were soon set aside as New York City decided to fund the modernization of its ports instead.

Choosing the Site

Throughout the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, entrepreneurs transformed New York City into the financial capital of the world. In 1955, David Rockefeller proposed a plan to revitalize the idea of a center for international trade in the east side of lower Manhattan. Rockefeller wanted this five million-square-foot complex to breathe new life into the downtown financial district. The potential site of the World Trade Center was controversial. Businesses located in lower Manhattan’s east side were not interested in vacating the area. This project had been accepted as a joint venture between the states of New York and New Jersey, but New Jersey felt that it would not benefit from a complex located on the East River. The Port Authority was also looking for ways to modernize its newly acquired commuter railroad. In the end, the Port Authority decided to combine the World Trade Center and the commuter railroad at a location on the Hudson River in lower Manhattan’s west side.

Design and Construction

The controversy did not end with the newly chosen site. The proposed location was the home of many established electronics businesses that did not want to relocate. Merchants took their complaints to court and the final decision was in favor of the Port Authority. The Port Authority hired architect Minoru Yamasaki to design the World Trade Center with the requirement that the buildings be higher than the Empire State Building. Yamasaki’s design included two 110-story towers that were revolutionary in design, using an outer skin that removed the need for support from internal columns. Construction on the two towers ended on December 23, 1970, and the complex opened in 1973.

Throughout the construction of the World Trade Center, building materials containing asbestos were used to insulate the floors. The September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center released asbestos particles from the building materials into the air. The effects of this continue to be brought to light as reports of the amounts of asbestos within the debris are issued.