Skip PBS navigation bar, and jump to content.

The Film & More
Special Features
People & Events
Teacher's Guide

spacer above content
Timeline: World Trade Center chronology

1942-2000 | 2001-2002  


Austin J. Tobin is appointed executive director of the Port of New York Authority, which later will be renamed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.


July 22: Forty-three nations meet to negotiate the Bretton Woods agreement, an American and British plan establishing a postwar economic order based on the primacy of the U.S. dollar, and intended to encourage the reconstruction of the world's war-shattered economies through the expansion of international trade.


David Scholtz, a real estate developer and former governor of Florida, first proposes a concept for a "world trade center" in Lower Manhattan to encourage port and maritime activities in New York.


The New York State legislature authorizes a World Trade Corporation to develop the proposed World Trade Center and appoints Winthrop Aldrich, chairman of the Chase Bank (and uncle of David and Nelson Rockefeller), to explore the feasibility of the concept.

December: Encouraged by his sons Nelson and David, John D. Rockefeller Jr. donates $8.5 million to the United Nations to purchase a site along the East River for the world organization's permanent headquarters.


David Rockefeller initiates an ambitious urban renewal plan for Morningside Heights in upper Manhattan, the location of Columbia University and other educational and religious institutions.


Signing of the Marshall Plan The U.S. Congress passes the Marshall Plan to aid the economic reconstruction of Western Europe.

New York has become the world's largest center for manufacturing, wholesaling and shipping. It has also become the world's financial and corporate capital.


Truman North Atlantic Treaty April 4: Ten European nations, Canada and the United States sign the North Atlantic Treaty, America's first-ever peacetime military alliance.

Congress passes Title I urban renewal legislation.


November: David Rockefeller announces a plan to construct the new headquarters for the Chase Manhattan Bank in Lower Manhattan. Built at a cost of $121 million, the 60-story building, known as 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, is intended to initiate the revival of the downtown financial district.


The Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association is started, spearheaded by David Rockefeller.


John D. Rockefeller III, Nelson and David's brother, initiates the development of the Lincoln Square project, an urban renewal effort to create a performing arts complex, Lincoln Center, on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

October: The Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association (D.L.M.A.) and David Rockefeller release an 80-page master plan for the transformation of Lower Manhattan through traffic improvements and the creation of new housing, office buildings, and recreational facilities, including a new exhibition-and-office complex dedicated to world trade.

November: Nelson A. Rockefeller is elected governor of New York.


January: The D.L.M.A. releases its formal plan for a five-million-square-foot World Trade Center on the East Side of Manhattan, and proposes that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey "study" the concept's feasibility.

December: Austin Tobin agrees that the Port Authority will begin planning for the World Trade Center project.


March: The Port Authority releases its plan for a World Trade Center along the East River, featuring several office buildings and a major exhibition hall for industrial products. New Jersey governor Richard Meyner claims the proposed project will do little for his state.

Spring: The New York and New Jersey legislatures approve the joint Port Authority Trans-Hudson/World Trade Center bill. It is quickly signed by Governor Nelson Rockefeller and newly elected New Jersey governor Richard Hughes.

December: Responding to objections from New Jersey, the Port Authority relocates the World Trade Center site from the East River to a 16-acre parcel of land along the Hudson River. The new site is located above the Manhattan terminus of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad, a deteriorating commuter line which the Port Authority has agreed to take over, renovate, and rename the Port Authority Trans-Hudson line.


Local businessmen in Lower Manhattan, many of them part of an electronics district known as "Radio Row," begin a series of legal and political challenges to the World Trade Center, whose development will eliminate their businesses. Their protests will continue for four years.

February: Port Authority employee Guy Tozzoli takes over the planning and operations of the enormous building project.

September 12: Encouraged by recent successes in the space program, President John F. Kennedy announces to the nation his intention that the United States land a man on the moon before the end of the decade, marking the start of what becomes the Apollo Project.

October: The Detroit-based architect Minoru Yamasaki is hired as primary designer of the trade center, working in association with Emery Roth & Sons, a New York architecture firm known for its speculative building projects.


January: The completed design of the World Trade Center, consisting of twin 110-story towers along with four smaller structures surrounding a central plaza, is presented at a press conference at the New York Hilton.

The New York World's Fair opens in Flushing Meadows, Queens.


March: The New York State Court of Appeals turns back the final legal challenge to the World Trade Center, clearing the way for the project to proceed.

March 21: Demolition of existing structures on the site begins.

August 5: Contractors begin the construction project by sinking the giant concrete "bathtub" wall that will enclose the foundations of the towers and adjacent parking garages.


August: Steel work begins on the north tower of the World Trade Center.


January: Steel work on the south tower begins.


April: While construction of the towers continues, scores of construction workers (called "hardhats" in the press) attack demonstrators protesting the Vietnam War in Lower Manhattan.

December 23: The final column of the north tower is hoisted into place on the 110th floor where the workers hold their traditional "topping-off" ceremony. That same week, the first tenants begin moving into the lower floors of the building.


July 19: The topping-off ceremony is held on the south tower.


Spring: After several years of criticism and attacks from New Jersey governor William Cahill, Austin Tobin decides to retire from the Port Authority, ending a thirty-year-long tenure as director, and a forty-five-year career at the agency.


Nelson Rockefeller Nelson Rockefeller becomes vice president of the United States.

April 4: The Port Authority holds a dedication ceremony for the World Trade Center in the north tower. Austin Tobin does not attend.


August 7: Just after 7am, a French wirewalker named Philippe Petit crosses the 131-foot divide between the tops of the two towers eight times, to the delight -- and terror -- of thousands of New Yorkers watching from below. Afterwards he is arrested and "sentenced" to perform free highwire acts for children in Central Park.

The 1,454-foot Sears Tower in Chicago opens, and surpasses the World Trade Center as the world's tallest structure by 100 feet.


Summer: The observation deck opens on the 110th floor of the south tower, and quickly becomes one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.

October: New York's fiscal crisis comes to a climax, threatening the city with bankruptcy, and bringing to a culmination years of growing social and economic troubles. In November, the Daily News summarizes President Gerald Ford's refusal to provide loan guarantees for New York with the headline: "Ford to City: Drop Dead."


Spring: Reversing his earlier stance, President Ford agrees to guarantee emergency loans for the city, and New York begins its gradual recovery from the financial crisis.

May: Windows on the World -- called "the greatest restaurant in the world" by food critic Gael Greene -- opens its doors on the 106th and 107th floors of the north tower.

July 4: Operation Sail takes place in New York Harbor for the nation's bicentennial. Dozens of "tall ships" parade down the Hudson past the newly completed World Trade Center.


May 27: George Willig, a 27-year-old toy designer from Queens, scales up the side of the north tower in three hours; the press dubs him "The Human Fly."


A long economic boom begins, centered on Wall Street. It brings a flood of new investment, new construction, and new populations to New York. After years of financial losses for its owners, the World Trade Center begins to turn a profit, and is producing $187 million a year in net income by 1987.


October 20: On "Black Monday," the long bull market comes to a sudden end when the New York Stock Exchange drops 508 points, the greatest single-day loss in its history.


February 26: At 12pm, a group of fanatical Muslim fundamentalists detonate a van filled with 4,000 pounds of explosives in an underground parking garage beneath the north tower of the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring more than a thousand, while failing to structurally damage the towers. Six conspirators will be convicted of the crime and given prison sentences of 240 years apiece.

November: Rudolph Giuliani, a former U.S. Attorney, is elected mayor of New York and vows to decrease crime and restore civic order in the city.


As crime and disorder drop in the city dramatically, a new boom begins to take hold in New York, bringing an upsurge in economic activity and a new influx of immigrants from around the globe. At the World Trade Center, the original port-related tenants and government agencies will be replaced by wealthy financial services companies, leasing multiple floors by 2001.


The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the population of New York City, after dropping for three decades, has increased by more than 700,000 since 1990 to top the eight million mark for the first time in the city's history.

1942-2000 | 2001-2002  

Find out about four centuries of New York history in another PBS timeline.

page created on 8.22.2003
Site Navigation

The Center of the World Home | The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline
Maps | People & Events | Teacher's Guide

American Experience | Feedback | Search | Shop | Subscribe | Web Credits

© New content 1999-2003 PBS Online / WGBH

The Center of the World - New York: A Documentary Film American Experience

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: