Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Town Monday - Seattle - Space Needle

The Space Needle is a major landmark of the Pacific Northwest and a symbol of Seattle. Located at the Seattle Center, it was built for the 1962 World's Fair, during which time nearly 20,000 people a day used the elevators, with over 2.3 million visitors in all for the World Fair.

The Space Needle is 605 feet high and 138 feet wide at its widest point and weighs 9,550 tons. When it was completed it was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. It is built to withstand winds of up to 200 mph and earthquakes up to 9.5 magnitude and has 25 lightning rods on the roof to prevent lightning damage.

Edward E. Carlson, chairman of the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle, originally had an idea for erecting a tower with a restaurant at the top as part of the World's Fair celebration. Carlson was then president of a hotel company and not previously known for art or design, but he was inspired by a recent visit to the Stuttgart Tower of Germany.

John Graham, a noted architect became involved in the planning and design. Graham's first move was to make the restaurant featured in the plans revolve, in the same manner as a tower he had previously designed for the Ala Moana shopping center in Honolulu.

The proposed Space Needle had no land on which to be built. Since it was not financed by the city, land had to be purchased that was within the fairgrounds. It was thought there would be no land available to build a tower and the search was nearly dead when in 1961, a 120 foot by 120 foot plot that contained switching equipment for the fire and police alarm systems was discovered and sold to the investors for $75,000. At this point, only one year remained before the World's Fair would begin.

It was privately built and financed by the "Pentagram Corporation" which consisted of Bagley Wright, contractor Howard S. Wright, architect John Graham, Ned Skinner, and Norton Clapp. In 1977 Bagley, Skinner and Clapp sold their interest to Howard Wright who now controls it under the name of Space Needle Corporation.

The earthquake stability of the Space Needle was ensured when a hole was dug 30 feet deep and 120 feet across. An army of cement trucks (467 in all) took one full day to fill it up. In fact, the foundation alone weighs almost 6,000 tons and there are 250 tons of reinforcing steel in the base. With this concrete base weighing the same as the above-ground structure, the Needle's center of gravity is just 5 feet above ground level. The entire structure is bolted to the foundation with 72 bolts, each bolt being 30 feet long.



The construction team worked around the clock. The top dome housing the top five levels (including the restaurants and observation deck) was perfectly balanced so that the restaurant could rotate with the help of one tiny electric motor, originally 1 hp but later replaced with a 1.5 hp motor. With fresh paint of such names as Orbital Olive for the body, Astronaut White for the legs, Re-entry Red for the saucer, and Galaxy Gold for the roof, the Space Needle was finished in less than one year. It was completed in April 1962 at a cost of $4.5 million; the last elevator car was installed the day before the Fair opened on April 21.




In 1974, author Stephen Cosgrove's children's book Wheedle on the Needle postulated a furry creature called a Wheedle who lived on top of the Space Needle and caused its light to flash. Its closing quatrain is: There's a Wheedle on the Needle/I know just what you're thinking/But if you look up late at night/You'll see his red nose blinking. The Wheedle had since become a fixture of Seattle, becoming for a time the mascot of the Seattle Supersonics.

In 1982, the SkyLine level was added at a height of 100 ft. While this level had been depicted in the original plans for the Space Needle, it was not built until this time. Today, the SkyLine Banquet Facility can accommodate groups of 20–360 people.

A panoramic view of the Space Needle, Downtown Seattle, Qwest Field, and Safeco Field.Renovations were completed in 2000 that cost nearly five times the original price ($21 million). Renovations between 1999 and 2000 included the SkyCity restaurant, SpaceBase retail store, Skybeam installation, Observation Deck overhaul, lighting additions, and of course, new coats of paint all over.

On May 19, 2007, the Space Needle welcomed its 45 millionth visitor. The guest, Greg Novoa of San Francisco, received a free trip for two to Paris which included a VIP dinner at the Eiffel Tower.

Every year on New Year's Eve, the Space Needle celebrates with a fireworks show at midnight that is synchronized to music.


My Town Monday is the brilliant idea of Travis Erwin. Please visit his blog for links to others participating in this fun exercise.

16 comments:

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Anti-wife,

I have always wondered about the Space Needle, well at least since the Frazier show.

I love the Wheedle on the Needle.

Thanks for the info.

Terrie

Barrie said...

Thank you for all these facts. What research you've done for us!

Mary Witzl said...

I like the Wheedle on the Needle too. But all the same, I wouldn't want to be on the Needle if there was an earthquake. Mind you, I wouldn't want to be on the ground then either...

ChrisEldin said...

I also love the Wheedle on the Needle! How cute!
And I didn't know this was privately financed in the beginning.
The most interesting part is the foundation.

Travis Erwin said...

I always wondered what that Supersonic mascot was.

Demon Hunter said...

I have always wanted to visit the Space Needle. Cool. I will one day---soon. :*)

Linda McLaughlin said...

Very interesting. It's great to know how well-built the Space Needle is. Sounds like it will be standing for a very long time. It's pretty amazing they managed to build it so quickly though. Thanks for the post.

Linda

WordVixen said...

Holy cow. I always thought the Space Needle was just something you could ride to the top, look around, and go down again.

There's so much in Seattle that I'd like to visit- including the Dry sodas headquarters!

lyzzydee said...

I had never heard of this land mark, but I love the way that they constructed it!!

cindy said...

we went up the space needle when we visited seattle! of course!!

ORION said...

I love driving down Aurora Avenue and getting to the point where it looks like the space needle is just sitting flat on the hill in front...

bookfraud said...

the needle is something i've always wanted to visit -- it's not the tallest tower in the world, but it has that retro cool most modern buildings lack. really fascinating stuff.

debra said...

I knew about the Needle but not how it came to be. thanks for another interesting post

kathie said...

The Wheedle on the Needle? Now that sounds like a book worth reading to a kid. Great post, love the history--is there anything that doesn't involve politics of some sort? Could you imagine if the needle hadn't been built?

Ello said...

Seriously, I never knew anything about the space needle! This was fascinating as usual. And that Wheedle on the needle! Too cute!

Britta Coleman said...

I never knew about the Needle either, let alone that it was initially built for a World's Fair. Seems like we'll do just about anything to get people to show up for livestock and funnel cakes.

Love the Wheedle on the Needle bit.