Windows Of The World
One Of Our Country’s First Themed Restaurant Was On The 107th Floor Of The World Trade Center
Joseph Harold Baum was an American restaurateur responsible for creating the country’s first themed restaurants.
He was an innovative restaurateur who created a new American style in dining with themed restaurants like the Four Seasons, the Forum of the Twelve Caesars and La Fonda del Sol, and gave new meaning to high style in skyscraper restaurants like Windows on the World.
In 1970, after parting ways with Restaurant Associates, Joseph Baum was hired by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to help develop the restaurants at the World Trade Center.
I’m sure Mr. Baum would have been devastated had he been alive to watch the World Trade Center and Windows of the World disappear in such a tragic way.
The restaurant, Windows on the World was his visionary brainchild.
Mr. Baum hired architect Warren Platner to design his visionary modern space. Graphic designer Milton Glaser NY and Brooklyn Brewery logos contributed the menu artwork, dishware patterns, and logo. Barbara Kafka (author of a collection of award-winning cookbooks and was a regular contributor for the NY Times) picked the plate ware and silverware. And Chefs James Beard and Jacques Pepin helped develop the menu.
Windows on the World occupied the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower.
Windows on the World opened on April 19, 1976, as a private club with 1,500 members who paid dues based on their relationship with and proximity to the World Trade Center — WTC tenants paid $360 a year, and those who lived outside the “port district” paid just $50. But anyone could visit Windows on the World in the early days if they paid $10 in dues, plus $3 per guest.
The Windows of the World
“The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World,”
Is No More!
On that horrific 9/11/01 day, 14 years ago, 79 employees of the restaurant lost their lives.
The last chef to champion the kitchen was Michael Lomonaco who by the grace of God was running an errand in the concourse of the World Trade Center when the first plane hit. The chef was evacuated from the building immediately, and witnessed the second plane hit the WTC from the street. Lomonaco then headed north and made it up to his home on the Upper East Side, where he immediately started figuring out who was working that day and returned just as the second tower was falling.
By the following week, a Windows on the World hotline was set up at the restaurant’s sister establishment, Beacon, and Lomonaco and his head of human resources, Elizabeth Ortiz, began working to find the 50 employees that were unaccounted for. Lomonaco soon helped set up a relief fund called Windows of Hope, which raised over $22 million for the families of Windows workers.
In a New York magazine cover story titled “The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World,” Gael Greene describes the experience of entering the dining room:
“Every view is brand-new? a miracle. In the Statue of Liberty Lounge, the harbor’s heroic blue sweep makes you feel like the ruler of some extraordinary universe. All the bridges of Brooklyn and Queens and Staten Island stretch across the restaurant’s promenade. Even New Jersey looks good from here. Down below are all of Manhattan and helicopters and clouds. Everything to hate and fear is invisible. Pollution is but a cloud. A fire raging below Washington Square is a dream, silent, almost unreal, though you can see the arc of water licking flame. Default is a silly nightmare. There is no doggy doo. Garbage is an illusion.”
Windows on the World was one of the greatest restaurants New York City has ever seen. The World Trade Center offered spectacular views of not only Manhattan, but also Brooklyn and New Jersey. Although the food couldn’t always match the scenery, Windows provided guests with a sophisticated, forward-thinking dining experience unlike any other in New York City.
Mr. Baum created top-quality restaurants with an American accent and an American sense of informality and fun. More than any other restaurateur at that time, he created an environment where food and theater overlapped, producing what Time magazine called ”a blend of slick spectacle and lofty cuisine.”
As the years go by there are always new stories about those who lost their lives that day. I felt the need to share a story I accidentally ran across as I was researching the history of THEMED restaurants and the men that made them.
I didn’t anticipate writing and article about the 9/11 World Trade Center tragedy but as I uncovered information on Joseph Braum and his connection to the Windows On The World and realized today was 9/10 this was no accident I was meant to be writing this post.
One Of Our Country’s First Themed Restaurant Was On The 107th Floor Of The World Trade Center…