The History of One World Trade Center in 22 Photos
Today, One World Trade Center—also known as the Freedom Tower—welcomes its first tenants. Here's a brief history of the tower, as told by the photos documenting its planning, construction, special visitors, and grand opening.
1. Artist's Rendering: December 2003
An early rendering of the Freedom Tower, designed by architects David Childs and Daniel Libeskind, was unveiled on December 19, 2003. The new building would stand 1776 feet tall, have twisting sides meant to evoke the Statue of Liberty, and contain 2.6 million square feet of commercial space.
Libeskind, the original architect, was forced to collaborate with Childs, architect of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, at the request of Larry Silverstein, who held the lease on the property. The collaboration was not an easy one, according to Libeskind: "It's not just easy. It's not just a couple of meetings. It's a struggle to create something great." The "exclamation point" on the skyline, Childs said, "must be iconic. Simple and pure in its form, a memorable form, that would proclaim the resiliency and the spirit of our democracy." The design was controversial and would eventually be modified due to security concerns.
2. Laying the Cornerstone: July 4, 2004
Michael Bloomberg (then Mayor of the city) unveiled the cornerstone's inscription with then-Governor George Pataki (rear left) and then-New Jersey Governor James McGreevey (right) at the groundbreaking ceremony for the tower. “Today we take 20 tons of Adirondack granite—the bedrock of our State—and place it as the foundation, the bedrock of a new symbol of American strength and confidence," Pataki said. "Today, we lay the cornerstone for a new symbol of this city and this country and of our resolve in the face of terror. Today we build the Freedom Tower." The cornerstone would eventually be moved in 2006 because of the building's redesign, which made its location obsolete.
3. Updated Design: June 2005
On June 29, 2005, a new Freedom Tower design was unveiled. According to a press release from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the redesigned building featured a cubic base rather than the parallelogram of the original design, and was set back further from the street. The new design measured 200 feet by 200 feet, the same size as the footprints of the Twin Towers:
As the tower itself rises from its cubic base, its square edges are chamfered back, transforming the square into eight tall isosceles triangles in elevation. At its middle, the tower forms a perfect octagon in plan and then culminates in an observation deck and glass parapet (elevation 1362 feet and 1368 feet—the heights of the original Twin Towers) whose plan is a square, rotated 45 degrees from the base. A mast containing an antenna for the Metropolitan Television Alliance (MTVA), designed by a collaboration of architects, artists, lighting designers and engineers, and secured by a system of cables, rises from a circular support ring, similar to Liberty’s torch, to a height of 1,776 feet. In keeping with the original design, the entire composition evokes the Statue of Liberty’s torch and will emit light, becoming its own Beacon of Freedom.
4. Construction Begins: April 2006
After two years of delays, construction finally began on One World Trade Center in April 2006.
5. Other WTC Building Designs Unveiled: September 2006
Later that year, Silverstein and architects Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, and Fuhimo Maki unveiled designs for three new skyscrapers that will eventually replace the buildings destroyed in the 9/11 attacks.
6. and 7. Signing and Raising the First Steel Beams: December 2006
A number of 25-ton steel beams—including one signed by thousands of people—were erected in December 2006, the first vertical construction of the future One World Trade Center.
8. Building the Foundation: September 2008
Two years later, approximately 500 workers were still building the foundation of One World Trade Center.
9. Installing More Steel Columns: August 2009
In August 2009, workers installed the first of 24 large steel columns—each 60 feet long and 70 tons—at the core of the building. They were the largest columns used to date on the structure.
10. A view of the top: November 2010
A view of the top of the One World Trade Center gives some perspective for how far the building came in just a year.
11. The Halfway Point: February 2011
The building hit 52 floors—and the halfway mark in its construction—in February 2011.
12. Hurricane Irene: August 2011
A photographer snapped this photo as the top of One World Trade Center is buffeted by rain from Hurricane Irene on August 28, 2011. The building was located in a mandatory evacuation area, and construction was suspended during the storm. In October 2012, when Hurricane Sandy hit, Tribeca residents noticed that the building made an eerie whistling sound in the storm's high winds.
13. One World Trade at Night: September 2011
Just days before the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the white lights on One World Trade were switched out for patriotic red, white, and blue illumination.
14. and 15. The Tallest Building in NYC: April 2012
On April 30, steel workers Jim Brady (right) and Billy Geoghan maneuvered a steel beam into place on the 100th story of One World Trade Center, making it the tallest building in New York City. Reporters and photographers got to check out the view from the 90th story.
16. and 17. The Spire Arrives: December 2012
On December 11, 2012, nine sections of the tower's 408-foot tall steel spire arrived on a barge on the Hudson River.
18. The view from the 100th Story: April 2013
Media toured 1WTC's observation deck in April 2013.
19. The last section of the spire is hoisted into place: May 2013
Just one month later, the last 75-foot section of the building's spire was lifted into place. You can watch a timelapse video of the event here.
20. Named the Tallest Building in North America: November 2013
In November 2013, One World Trade Center was officially named the tallest building in North America, stealing the title from Chicago's Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower).
21. The Harlem Globetrotters Take a Tour: February 2014
On February 12, 2014, the Harlem Globetrotters—including Jon "Hawk" Thomas—visited the 100th floor of One World Trade Center, where they gave away 104 tickets to represent the 104 floors of the building.
22. The Building Opens for Business: November 2014
Media company Conde Nast—One World Trade's first tenant—moved in today.
All photos courtesy of Getty Images.