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The Seattle Space Needle

Updated on November 9, 2015

Symbol of Seattle Washington

The Seattle Space Needle on a Sunny Day
The Seattle Space Needle on a Sunny Day

Seattle Space Needle

The Space Needle is Seattle's most recognizeable landmark and the symbol of the city. Naturally, it is also one of the most popular attractions. On a clear day visitors can enjoy views of the surrounding city, Puget Sound and mountains over 100 miles away.

The idea for this unique, graceful architecture was literally first sketched on a placemat. The Space Needle is located at the Seattle Center, the site of the Seattle's 1962 World's Fair. The name and design of they were the centerpiece of the futuristic themed Century 21 Exposition.

Although they were intended to look like space capsules, to me the brightly colored glass door elevators resemble yellow lady bugs crawling up the sides of the 605 foot tall needle. Every year the three elevators transport approximately a million passengers to and from the revolving Space Needle Restaurant and observation deck near the top.

When it was built, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River and was designed to withstand earthquakes up to 9.1 magnitude and winds up to 200 miles per hour.

Nearly every day I pass by this graceful building and enjoy photographing it throughout the year in every season and in all types of weather. I hadn't taken a trip to the top for several years until I recently had the opportunity to celebrate the needle's 50th birthday and enjoy the view on a sunny day while eating lunch in the Sky City Restaurant.

I thought I'd commemorate the occasion by sharing some photos of the Space Needle and the story of how this landmark structure was built.

All photos by the author, Vicki Green, unless otherwise credited

Going up in the Space Needle

Looking up from the base of the Space Needle -Seattle, WA
Looking up from the base of the Space Needle -Seattle, WA

Have you been to the top of the Space Needle?

Have you been up to the restaurant or observation deck of the Space Needle?

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Where is the Seattle Space Needle?

The Space Needle is located at the Seattle Center which was the location of the 1962 World's Fair. It is about a mile away from the tall buildings of the city center which makes its height appear deceiving. Many photographers who want to include the Space Needle in a photo of the city skyline do so from Queen Anne Hill. Kerry Park is a favorite vantage point which puts the structure in the foreground and makes it appear taller than all of the other buildings. The Space Needle is actually the 6th tallest building in Seattle.

A Map of Seattle Showing the Space Needle

A markerThe Seattle Space Needle -
219 4th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
get directions

The Space Needle is located at the Seattle Center which was the site of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.

Space Needle: Symbol of Seattle
Space Needle: Symbol of Seattle

I enjoyed this book is by local author, Robert Spector. It includes both historic photographs and full-color photos of the building.

 

The Space Needle: Symbol of Seattle - By Robert Spector

This book tells the story of the Seattle Space Needle which is more than a simple story of a building. It is also an interesting story about business leaders of the community and the civic pride of the city in the early 1960s.

Sketch of the Space Needle Submitted to the Seattle Engineering Department

Prototype Drawing  of the Space Needle
Prototype Drawing of the Space Needle | Source

The Symbol of a City Begins on a Placemat

The story of how what has become an icon was designed

One of the business leaders who planned the 1962 World's Fair was Edward Carlson. In 1959, the plan for the fair still needed a centerpiece structure when Carlson had an idea for a design after seeing the Stuttgart Tower on a trip to Germany. He used a coffeeshop placemat to sketch a design for a futuristic tower and showed it to the rest of the group who were planning the fair.

The idea was discussed and brought to architect John Graham and his team of architects. After many hours of work and discussions the final design merged Carlson's idea of a balloon-like structure tethered to the ground with Graham's concept of a flying saucer. Victor Steinbrueck is credited with adding the idea for the hourglass shape of the tower. The drawings were completed in 1960 with only a year and a half before the fair opened to build the tower.

The photo is not the original sketch on a placemat, but is the final prototype drawing that was submitted as part of the plan to the city's building department.


Construction of the Space Needle

The Seattle Space Needle Under Construction 1961
The Seattle Space Needle Under Construction 1961 | Source

Finding a Site for the Space Needle

The Search for a Location

Not only did the design need to be completed, but since it was a private venture and not publicly owned, the land for the building site needed to be located and purchased at the designated site of the fair. Finally, after some negotiations a parcel of land the right size was made available on the fairgrounds. The piece of land measuring 120 by 120 feet was purchased in March 1961 only 13 months before the fair was to open.


The Space Needle Rises

Seattle Space Needle Construction Photo
Seattle Space Needle Construction Photo | Source

The Tower Rises

The race was on to complete construction before April 21, 1962, the opening day of the fair. The tower was built under the direction of the Howard S. Wright Construction Company, and happened with amazing speed. A hole for the foundation measuring 30 feet deep and 120 feet across was dug. The hole was filled in one day with concrete from 467 cement trucks in the largest continuous concrete pour ever attempted in the Western US. The foundation weighs as much as the tower itself with the center of gravity at only 5 feet above ground level.

When it was built, the Space Needle was the tallest building west of the Mississippi and construction far exceeded the building standards. It was built twice as strong as what was required by the building codes at the time. It was designed to withstand catastrophic earthquakes up to 9.1 magnitude and hurricane force winds up to 200 miles per hour. It also has 25 lightning rods on the top to prevent damage by lightning.

The structure was completed in December of 1961, but the final opening was down to the wire, with the last elevator installed on April 20th - the day before the opening day of the fair.

The total construction cost was 4.5 million dollars.


An Aerial View of the Space Needle Under Construction

Construction of the Space Needle Revolving Restaurant
Construction of the Space Needle Revolving Restaurant | Source

The Space Needle Revolving Restaurant

The construction of the top was completed including the observation deck and a restaurant that revolves 360 degrees in an hour - a perfect speed for diners to get a view in every direction while enjoying a meal. The restaurant sits on a turntable that consists of 24 steel sections and measures 94.5 feet in diameter. The turntable was made a few miles north in Everett, Washington by Western Gear Works.


Space Needle Fun Facts

Height: 605 feet

Foundation Depth: 30 feet

Foundation Width: 120 feet

Weight: 5,850 tons

250 tons of reinforcing steel

Tower is attached with 72 bolts

Each bolt is 30 feet long

Cost to build: $4.5 million

Vintage Space Needle Photo - 1962

The Seattle Space Needle - 1962
The Seattle Space Needle - 1962 | Source

Completion in 1962

This is the photo when the World's Fair opened in 1962. The original colors were: Astronaut White for the support pillars and top, Orbital Olive for the central tower core, Re-entry Red for the halo and Galaxy Gold for the sunburst and roof.

The 50th Anniversary of the Space Needle

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1962 World's Fair, in April 2012 the roof was repainted in the original Galaxy Gold color.


50 Years Old in 2012 - A Return to the Galaxy Gold Roof Color

Space Needle 2012 Retro Gold Roof
Space Needle 2012 Retro Gold Roof

Take a trip in an elevator to the top of the Space Needle

In All Seasons and All Types of Weather - Some of My Photos Through the Year

Click thumbnail to view full-size
On a cloudy spring dayA sunny spring day with the snow-capped Olympic Mountains behindA rainy dayIn December - note the Christmas tree lights decoration on topAt night at Christmas time
On a cloudy spring day
On a cloudy spring day
A sunny spring day with the snow-capped Olympic Mountains behind
A sunny spring day with the snow-capped Olympic Mountains behind
A rainy day
A rainy day
In December - note the Christmas tree lights decoration on top
In December - note the Christmas tree lights decoration on top
At night at Christmas time
At night at Christmas time

The Restaurant with the Best View in Town - Lunch at the Sky City Restaurant

Space Needle Restaurant
Space Needle Restaurant

Sky City Restaurant

All of the tables at the Sky City Restaurant have a fabulous view. The restaurant rotates 360 degrees in an hour. As the restaurant revolves guests enjoy views in every direction while eating their meal. Read the reviews and comments from other travelers about the Sky City Restaurant at Trip Advisor.

Photos from Lunch at the Sky City Restaurant - A 360 degree view in an hour

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A view of Elliot Bay and Bell Street Cruise Ship TerminalSky City Restaurant BreadAlaskan Halibut and ChipsChop-Chop SaladThe skyline of the downtown area
A view of Elliot Bay and Bell Street Cruise Ship Terminal
A view of Elliot Bay and Bell Street Cruise Ship Terminal
Sky City Restaurant Bread
Sky City Restaurant Bread
Alaskan Halibut and Chips
Alaskan Halibut and Chips
Chop-Chop Salad
Chop-Chop Salad
The skyline of the downtown area
The skyline of the downtown area

A Flyover by the Blue Angels - The Seafair Festival Blue Angels Performance

Blue Angels Over Seattle Space Needle
Blue Angels Over Seattle Space Needle | Source

Seahawks 12th Man Flag

Seahawks 12th Man Flag
Seahawks 12th Man Flag

Angry Birds in Space Launch - March 20, 2012

Angry Birds in Space Launch - March 20, 2012
Angry Birds in Space Launch - March 20, 2012

Watch the Fireworks Display from the Space Needle on New Year's Eve

Wheedle on the Needle
Wheedle on the Needle

Steven Cosgrove's beautifully illustrated and fun books were some of the most beloved treasures in my home. My children read them over and over again. This book, The Wheedle on the Needle was one of their favorites. Although Cosgrove's books are recommended for ages 4 through 8, my children and enjoyed them for many more years. If you are looking for wonderful children's books and haven't discovered Steven Cosgrove, you and your children will be delighted.

 

The Wheedle on the Needle - By Steven Cosgrove

My children loved all of the Steven Cosgrove books, but since we lived in the Seattle area, this book was one of their special favorites. The story is about Wheedle, a grumpy Sasquatch who is in search of a quiet place to sleep in Seattle and his quest leads him to the top of the Space Needle with interesting results. The Wheedle was also the mascot of the now defunct Seattle Sonics NBA Basketball Team, which added to the fun of the book at that time. As with all of Steven Cosgrove's books, this one is beautifully illustrated by Robin James and includes a subtle parable type of lesson. Although Cosgrove's books are recommended for ages 4 through 8, my children and enjoyed them for many more years. If you are looking for wonderful children's books and haven't discovered Steven Cosgrove, I heartily recommend.

Seattle CityPASS

If you are visiting Seattle and plan to include a trip to the Space Needle and some of the other popular attractions, consider purchasing a Seattle CityPASS. A Seattle City Pass will save you a considerable amount of money on the cost of your visit to the most popular attractions.

The Seattle CityPASS contains tickets to 5 of the most popular attractions in Seattle and is valid for 9 days. The booklet includes admission to the following:

1) Space Needle (2 visits in 24 hours - see it by day and by night)

2) Seattle Aquarium

3) Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour

4) Pacific Science Center or Chihuly Garden and Glass

5) Experience Music Project (EMP) or Woodland Park Zoo

© 2010 Vicki Green

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    • profile image

      Rachellewms 6 years ago

      Seattle is a city on my "must visit list" in 2011. Thanks for creating this informative lens

    • DecoratingEvents profile image

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      I love this city, and to this day, 31 years after I left, I still miss it. Thanks for jogging the memories!

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 6 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      I had a business meeting a few years back that included a meal at the top of the Space Needle. Thanks for the memories. Blessed

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 6 years ago from California

      I remember the first time I ever went there, it was beautiful, I have been up it a few times now, and each time it's different.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 6 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I've never been to Seattle, though I'd love to visit. I will say the Space Needle definitely defines Seattle! It's become one of the world's most well known icons, like the Gateway Arch here in St. Louis. Excellent story. I really enjoyed my virtual visit to the Space Needle.

    • dustytoes profile image

      dustytoes 6 years ago

      The fireworks are awesome. What a great place to have them. I've never been to Seattle so thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      GrowWear 6 years ago

      Excellent work about the Seattle Space Needle! Congratulations for your review at SLR. :)

    • profile image

      kimmanleyort 6 years ago

      Wonderful look at the Seattle Space Needle. The history is quite interesting. I have only ever passed through Seattle so have not had a chance to experience the Space Needle. I would imagine that the CN Tower in Toronto (which I have gone up) is a similar experience and that it's design was based on the Seattle Needle.

    • profile image

      KDimmick 6 years ago

      Blessed and featured on my angel lens :)

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 6 years ago

      This is another great lens on an interesting subject. Bit by bit I find lenses like this give great insight into cities around the world. *-*Blessed*-* and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust.

    • waldenthreenet profile image

      waldenthreenet 5 years ago

      Space Needle. Love to visit someday soon. Have Washington Monument here in Washingotn DC. Not so high !

    • PastorSam LM profile image

      PastorSam LM 5 years ago

      Very Nice Lens - I added you to my State of Washington Lensography.

      Blessings

    • Sher Ritchie profile image

      Sher Ritchie 5 years ago

      I love doing 'touristy' things - like visiting 'the world's biggest...' or 'the highest...' - your lens is fantastic! Wow!

    • BusinessSarah profile image

      BusinessSarah 5 years ago

      How beautiful! I'm hoping to get to Seattle on my honeymoon, and these pictures helped me make up my mind :)

    • photofk3 profile image

      photofk3 5 years ago

      Nice lens, I hope to visit Seattle some day and also the Space Needle. I especially liked the pictures on this lens, thank you.

    • profile image

      jimmyworldstar 5 years ago

      I have a fear of heights so I've never been on the space needle's top, but it really is a big landmark when you consider that most of the buildings surrounding it are not as big.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      if a have a chance to go to seatle.. i will go to space needle....thanks for sharing

    • esvoytko lm profile image

      esvoytko lm 5 years ago

      I live an 8 minute walk away and I've still never been up the needle. Guess I'm a humbug.

    • profile image

      ThomasGeleta 5 years ago

      Great city

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You do know Seattle so well. I have come to know it better.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You do know Seattle so well. I have come to know it better.

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      When we lived in Vancouver, we used to drive to Seattle often. It is a beautiful city! Spreading some angel dust over it now.

    • KReneeC profile image

      KReneeC 5 years ago

      Great lens! I used to live in Oregon and so badly wanted to go visit Seattle just for the space needle! One day I will!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have always want to visit Seattle and see all the sights.

      Thank you for sharing so much. :)

    • LotusLandry profile image

      LotusLandry 4 years ago from Southern California

      I was at the Space Needle on opening day..

    • profile image

      Oosquid 4 years ago

      I knew nothing about the Space Needle, I know quite a bit after reading your lens. Very interesting, top marks to you.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      Thank you for this wonderful tour of the Space Needle.

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 4 years ago

      I have heard about it before but never got a lot of information, today i got it in this lovely lens.

    • PinkstonePictures profile image

      PinkstonePictures 4 years ago from Miami Beach, FL

      Thanks for a great lens. Seattle is one of the places I'd love to visit one day

    • profile image

      RennyCross 3 years ago

      Such a great lens on Seattle. I think Seattle lovers will love to squid like it again and again if there was a button to like it again and again. Can't wait to visit seattle again.

    • techgadgeteer profile image

      techgadgeteer 3 years ago

      I Love Seattle. My Home sweet home :-)

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Most interesting, indeed. My parents went to the World's Fair in Seattle, and got to eat at the restaurant up on the Space Needle.

      I've never gotten to go there, though I have passed through Seattle while en route to Canada one year.

      I've always wished I could go see it in person. My father's side of the family has a sideways "connection" to the needle, in that one of his brothers-in-law worked for Western Gear (the San Francisco branch). So, uncle, personally, had nothing to do with the manufacture of the gear, but it was always fun to note that he worked for the company that made that humongous gear!

      Voted up and interesting.

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