Now that One World Trade Center is complete, it’s time to think about the men and women who built it. It is the tallest structure in the United States and North America, reaching 1776 feet. It’s both a major tourist attraction and a building New Yorkers hope they will be living with for many years to come.
There are some interesting facts about the building itself and the construction workers who made it possible, facts that New Yorkers may not know. One is that the spire was built and installed by Mohawk Indians – ironworkers from Canada. Mohawks have been working on New York City skyscrapers since the 1920s.
They started out working on Canadian bridges, but after a 1907 collapse that killed 35 members of the Kahnawake tribe, they changed their approach. They formed smaller teams so that a disaster would not wipe out the male members of the tribe. They created small riveting teams and began working on the highest buildings in the world.
At one point the ironworkers lived in Brooklyn with their families, but today the roads are good enough that they commute from Canada to the city every week, returning to their families on the weekends. There are as many as 200 workers who travel to the city every week from the reserve near Montreal.
Why do they do the work? It pays well, and there’s quite a bit of prestige. The Mohawk workers are thought to be unafraid of heights and immune to the noise of riveting.
Kahnawake riveting teams worked on the George Washington Bridge, the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, the Daily News Building and the Hudson Bridge, among many others. Many of them worked on the first World Trade Center and helped with the cleanup after 9/11. Some of today’s workers are third and fourth generation iron workers, proud of their ability to get the job done.
Source: Global Post, “After more than a century of scaling heights, Quebec Mohawks cap tallest NYC building yet,” Jun. 30, 2013.