a group of men sitting on a metal railing above a city

In this iconic image from Depression era New York, 11 men seated on the beam of an unfinished skyscraper open their lunch pails. The construction of the new World Trade Center in New York City, however, featured an improvement: a mobile Subway restaurant that rose up with One World Trade Center as it was constructed.

A restaurant that moved with the construction workers was the only way to liberate them from their packed lunches. Workers at the site only received a 30 minute lunch break, and a trip to a restaurant on street-level could take over an hour as workers waited for the lift. 

The Subway doled out sandwiches for 18 months, rising from the 27th floor to the 90th. It was one of 4 “pods” moved upward with construction by hydraulic legs. While many workers appreciated the convenience and shelter from the winter cold, it probably was not the most popular. The pods included a bathroom – an improvement over the bottles and slop buckets that workers previously resorted to. 

a large yellow sign

It’s not clear whether mobile restaurants will be a norm of skyscraper construction in the future. Crain’s New York reports that the restaurant only ever sold 90 of the 200 sandwiches it needed to sell in a day to break even. As a result, the construction contractor incurred a $180,000 loss on top of the half million dollar construction cost of the restaurant. But it did help logistically. A company executive noted: “It means we saved 90 rides on the hoist a day.”

This post was written by Alex Mayyasi. Follow him on Twitter here or Google Plus. To get occasional notifications when we write blog posts, sign up for our email list.

H/t to Reddit.