Past Becomes Future

The International Trade Mart, a precursor to what would become the World Trade Center organization, was formed in New Orleans in the mid-1940s to promote international trade and the Port of New Orleans. As the organization grew, they realized they needed a building to house that organization, other businesses and foreign consulates, as well as to provide a showcase and meeting space for international clients and visitors.

Property was bought at the end of Canal Street  where it meets the Mississippi River. With assistance from the City of New Orleans, who took over the deed to the land and rented it back to them (at the rate of $1 per year), they were able to build a grand tower.

The unique cross-shaped modernist building was designed by famous New York architect Edward Durell Stone. Construction began in 1963 and was completed in ’67. With 33 floors and a height of 407 feet, it was the tallest building in New Orleans from ’67-’69. It was formally dedicated on April 30, ’68, as part of the 250th anniversary events of the founding of New Orleans. Ambassadors from around the world visited and enjoyed parades and banquets in true New Orleans style.

One of the most well-known features of the building was the revolving cocktail lounge on the 33rd floor. Owner Jed Stedman opened and ran the Top of the Mart until it closed in 2001. The panoramic views of the city as the bar made a full revolution every hour drew tourists and locals alike, and was a popular place for the prom crowd, first dates, and proposals.

Since the late 1990s, talks of redevelopment have produced a lot of potential plans, but very little action. The City of New Orleans bought out the building’s lease agreement in 2012. A decision should be made soon in regards to the future of the currently empty building, which is slated for either demolition or redevelopment.

The International Trade Mart building, which would later become the World Trade Center Building, soon after its completion in 1967. Photo by Sam Sutton, provided courtesy of the New Orleans Public Library.

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