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History of New York City's One World Trade Center in 60 Seconds

Picture of Julia Goicochea
Updated: 26 October 2017
Manhattan’s One World Trade Center, also known as 1 WTC, 1 World Trade Center, and the Freedom Tower, possesses as many names as it does functions. The principal building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex, this Lower Manhattan mainstay opened in 2014, but its history dates farther back. A tourist destination, upscale office building, and a symbol of one city’s resilience, the multi-hyphenate One World Trade Center is about to become your new favorite New Yorker

For decades, the original World Trade Center complex served as one of the finest (and most famous) feathers in New York City’s cap. Since its finalization in the 1980s, the complex served as an international business hub, tourist attraction, and globally recognized symbol of the Big Apple. When the complex was devastated by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, New York mourned the loss of thousands of civilian lives and, it should be said, of the beloved landmarks themselves. Almost immediately following the attacks, proposals to reconstruct the complex began to circulate. By 2002, a plan to memorialize the victims and rebuild the complex started to take shape.

At the heart of this rebuilding effort was One World Trade Center, which was to occupy the complex’s principal role, a position previously held by the South and North Towers, considered the world’s tallest buildings at the time of completion. Architect David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was tasked with designing the new building, and in 2013, all 104 floors of his vision were complete. At 1,776-feet high, One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the western hemisphere and the sixth-tallest building in the world. The exterior is made up of a square base and eight soaring isosceles triangles that shimmer with more than 2,000 pieces of prismatic glass. It’s also arguably among the world’s most beautiful buildings.

Of course, it was more than the structure that needed to be rebuilt; the original World Trade Center was known as much for its cultural significance as for its impactful appearance. Described as “the best office address in the world,” the new One World Trade Center counts industry giants like Condé Nast among its tenants. New Yorkers across the city can also enjoy 1 WTC’s colorful light displays, which celebrate different holidays or recognize various causes and events. For a different but equally distinctive view, visit the One World Observatory, an enclosed observation deck situated 1,250-feet above ground that provides elevated vistas of a city that won’t be kept down.