The World Trade Center had a spectacular restaurant, Windows on the World, located on the 107th floor of the north tower. Graphic design legend Milton Glaser designed the menus, china, and other accessories in 1976. A $25 million dollar remodel was completed in 1996. Here’s a review of that from the New York Times.
It was popular with tourists, New Yorkers, and people who worked in the WTC. Around 800 diners were served nightly.
On September 11, 2001 at 8:46 am, when the first hijacked plane crashed into the north tower, the restaurant was filled with regular breakfast patrons on the 107th floor and a conference for the Risk Water Group on the 106th floor. About 73 employees and an unidentified number of diners died in the fire and building collapse.
David Shayt, September 11 Collecting Curator, Smithsonian Museum Specialist, Division of Cultural History, gathered these surviving restaurant artifacts.
cup and saucer
David explains how he found these items even though everything was lost in the collapse:
“In the case of the Windows on the World restaurant, I made a specific point to find the survivors of that restaurant. I began with the labor unions representing the workers at the restaurant to try to find any of them who had been returned an apron, or a soup ladle, or a broom or a mop, with no result whatsoever. But through that the process was directed toward the owner of the restaurant, Mr. Emil. I met with him, described our project, our efforts to honor and collect and commemorate the restaurant and its workers. And he kindly introduced me to a number of people including Carlos Garcia, the head steward at the restaurant.
Through Carlos, I have managed to build a Windows on The World collection: a collection of china, a champagne bottle with a glass, some uniform items. How did I get these if everything was destroyed during the collapse? Well, the week before September 11, the owner had a private dinner at his house and took home a few of the dinner sets. He rescued the only china that survived.
It was a new pattern of china, reflecting the curve of the earth that you could see from that height, the sun rising and setting, the blue and white and yellow of the sky, stars and the moon at night. These are reflected in the coffee cup, the saucer, the dessert plate, the silverware. He also had one of the private label champagne bottles full still in his freezer and a champagne glass.”
photos via National Museum of American History
See the rest of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History collection of objects documenting the attacks and their aftermath.