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Original blueprints for World Trade Center towers found in trash, sold for $250,000

The World Trade Center once towered over the southern Manhattan skyline. (Carol M. Highsmith/Wikipedia Commons)

Though they were destroyed nearly 20 years ago, the Minoru Yamasaki-designed World Trade Center towers, 1 and 2 World Trade Centers, remain in clear memory for architects and non-architects alike. Their shared height and radical abstraction made them instant icons of the late modernist movement and a dual symbol of New York City’s renewed presence in the postindustrial global economy. The Twin Towers’ undeniable significance made the recent discovery of their original blueprints all the more worthy of attention, including the unusual trade of hands that took place in the last half-century.

Drawing of two building elevations

The elevations of the Twin Towers, which very well could have been mistaken at first to be mere spreadsheets, are an integral part of the complete set that was recently up for auction. (Courtesy James Cummins Bookseller)

After the two towers were completed in 1973, the blueprints fell into the hands of Joseph Solomon, a former junior partner in Emery Roth & Sons, a New York-based architecture firm that partnered with Yamasaki on the project. Documenting elevations, sections, design details, and virtually all other elements of the site, the blueprints were serendipitously found in the trash in Denver, where Solomon brought them as he set up a new practice. Solomon passed away in 2017, leaving his daughter to clear out his garage, which, unbeknownst to her, included the valuable blueprints.

Denver resident Jake Haas saw the drawings lying in front of the Solomon home and, quickly determined their worth, sold them to local pawnshop owner Angelo Arguello, who then sold them to James Cummins Bookseller, a Manhattan-based rare book dealer, thus bringing the blueprints back to where they were first drawn up. “I think you do get a sense of what a massive undertaking this was,” Brian Kalkbrenner, a seller with James Cummins, told the Wall Street Journal while marveling at the plans in their entirety, thought to be the only complete set in existence.

The rare book dealer subsequently put them up for auction during the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory held last weekend where they were shown to the public for the very first time and, according to Channel 9 News, were sold for an astounding $250,000. While the winner of the auction has not been disclosed, Haas expressed that he would like to eventually see them on display in a local museum for the public to remember the towers that once stood tall in the Financial District.

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