The World’s Tallest TV Station

When people first think of the Twin Towers, the first thing that comes to mind is the tragedy of 9/11. But before that infamous day, the Twin Towers were among the tallest buildings in the world. And at one point, the World Trade Center was even considered the world’s tallest TV station.

The North Tower, completed first in December 1970, stood at an impressive 1,368 feet. Meanwhile, its twin South Tower, completed in July 1971, stood at 1,362 feet.

Not long after being completed in 1971, the Word Trade Center was soon dwarfed by the Sears Tower in Chicago. Standing at an eye-watering 1,451 feet, the Sears Tower became even taller than the World Trade Center. 

But with a simple addition, the Word Trade Center was soon able to reclaim the title of “World’s Tallest Building.”

The North Tower: The Tallest TV Station in the World

Until its destruction on 9/11, the North Tower had the distinction of being the tallest building in the world at 1,728 feet. But how did the North Tower gain several hundred feet on its twin tower? The answer to that is simple: an antenna. 

Building the twin towers was very expensive. Along with the huge insurance policy that cost billions of dollars, the building’s upkeep, insurance, and rent were costly for its owners. To help offset the cost, they got the idea of turning the North Tower into the country’s largest television station.

In 1979, the owners decided to mount a television antenna on the North Tower. Often working in cranes and baskets almost two thousand feet above the streets of Manhattan, the crews were known as “cloud piercers.” This is because they were so high up they would often be standing far above the cloud covers. 

Construction workers installing the WTC's antenna, making it the world’s tallest TV station
Photo of the “cloud piercers” taken in 1979 by Peter Kaplan. Photo found here

When completed, the tower provided television coverage for all of New York state. 

The Man Behind the Famous Photo of the World’s Tallest TV Station

Peter Kaplan was a famous photographer who was both a photographer and stuntman. Growing up in New York, Peter was fond of taking pictures from high places, even from a young age. But once he grew up, he took that love of photography to new heights – literally. 

After becoming famous for climbing the Statue of Liberty and snapping several, now world-renowned, photos, Peter Kaplan cemented his fame as both a photographer and daredevil. Clambering up places like the Empire State Building, St. Louis Arch, and Golden Gate Bridge, Peter made it his lifelong passion for showing the world what it looked like from its highest places. 

The photo of the Statue of Liberty is what made him famous. Photo found here

For the photo showing the antenna on the North Tower, Peter went up not once, not twice, but 12 separate times to get all the shots he needed. Talk about dedication!

Other Artists Who Have Scaled the World Trade Center

The “cloud piercers” and photographer Peter Kaplan weren’t the only ones to bravely make their way high up the World Trade Center.

August 7, 1974: High-wire walker Philippe Petit traversed a 131-foot-long cable between the Twin Towers and walked back and forth several time, 1,350 feet in the air. Even more impressive, he performed the act without a net.

July 22, 1975: Atop the North Tower, Owen Quinn performed the first ever (although unauthorized) parachute jump at the World Trade Center from the top of the North Tower. Follow Owen, four other people have parachuted off the Twin Towers between 1980 and 1999.

May 26, 1977: Toymaker and mountain climber George Willig scaled the entirety of the South Tower’s facade. The act was so impressive that he earned the nickname “the human fly.”

Looking Back at the World’s Tallest TV Station

The story behind the World Trade Center antenna photo is amazing. Not only was the guy that took it dangling almost 2,000 feet in the air, but he also had to do it a dozen times to get the shot he finally wanted. Not only that, but the photographer was well known for taking great shots of places most people would never dream of going. 

Because of how good his work was, Peter Kaplan’s photos have been preserved in places like the Smithsonian, New York Museum of Modern Art, as well as postage stamps in 13 different countries. 

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