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Picturing the World Trade Center

The twin towers of the World Trade Center dominated the New York City skyline for almost thirty years, from their grand opening on April 4, 1973, until their destruction on September 11, 2001. They were visible from almost all corners of the city, and on a clear day, one could see them from up to forty miles away.

They were an especially prominent visual presence in our neighborhoods, where they were always visible, and a clear directional marker for downtown (vs. uptown). As such, and as incredibly important (if short-lived) landmarks of our city, they also have a prominent place in our Historic Image Archive, which contains nearly 4,000 images of our neighborhoods and other landmarks of New York City over the past two and a half centuries.

While our image archive contains many images of the destruction of the World Trade Center and the aftermath the terrorist attacks, today we focus on the images from our archive of the twin towers during their all-too-brief life between April 4, 1973 and September 11, 2001.

This image was taken in 1996 by Robert Fisch. The Robert Fisch collection of our historic image archive includes images primarily of the Greenwich Village of his youth in the 1980s, landmarks and familiar sights of the neighborhood and city in the decades since then, the former World Trade Center, and the annual Gay Pride Parade. His collection also includes several images of 9/11 as viewed from Greenwich Village. 
Another image from Robert Frish, this one from 1993. On April 5. 1973, the day following the WTC’s Grand Opening, NY Times architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable wrote: “These are big buildings, but they are not great architecture…..The Port Authority has built the ultimate Disneyland fairytale blockbuster. It is General Motors Gothic.”
Images from the Jack Dowling Collection include the Twin Towers in the background of photos documenting the waterfront’s decay in the 1970s and 80s. The Towers were a ubiquitous backdrop of many photos during this time.
This 1978 image was taken by Meredith Marciano. Many photos were taken of the Twin Towers through the Washington Square Arch. This one is a little offset to the west.
Photographer Hank Weber captured this picture “Looking Up” in 1988. He was fascinated by the World Trade Center and this image captures much of the enormity of the North Tower on the right with a section of the South Tower on the left.
This 1977 view south across the rooftops of Soho was taken by acclaimed Village Voice photographer Fred W. McDarrah.
Photographer Carole Teller captured the view southeast from St. Vincent’s Hospital towards Greenwich Avenue.

Photographer Meredith Marciano is pictured here looking south on West Street in 1986.

Click here to see more image of the World Trade Center in our historic image archive.

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