Friday, July 16, 2010

Seattle Space Needle

You are looking at a poster from way back in 1962, depicting a sort of fanciful version of the Seattle World's Fair, known as the Century 21 Exposition.

Those gondolas halfway up the Space Needle did not actually get near the Needle, let alone that high. That skyride now resides at the Western Washington Fairgrounds in Puyallup.

That bright beam of light you see shooting from the top of the Space Needle, well that was part of the original concept, but it did not make it on the final product unveiled for the World's Fair.

But on New Year's Eve, 1999, a very powerful light beam was turned on for the first time, called the Legacy Light or Skybeam. 85 million candle power strong. Originally it was thought the Skybeam light would be turned on up to 75 nights a year. But, there was a lot of complaining about the light pollution it caused. So, the light only comes on about a dozen times a year. However, it remained on 12 days in a row following the 9/11 terror attacks.

The original design of the Space Needle, as seen in the poster, also shows a broad spiral staircase leading to the elevators. That also was omitted from the 1962 Space Needle. However a short time after EMP (Experience Music Project) opened next to the Space Needle, a two-story Pavilion enclosed in glass was built at the base of the Needle, somewhat resembling the original design.

At 605 feet tall the Space Needle replaced the Smith Tower as the tallest building west of the Mississippi River when it was completed.

The Space Needle was built in less than a year. As the opening of the World's Fair grew closer construction teams worked around the clock. There have been numerous renovations and upgrades made to the Space Needle over the years, including adding another restaurant at the 100 foot level. This also was in the original plans.

The restaurant at the top of the Needle is now called SkyCity. It still rotates, making a complete circle every 47 minutes.

The Seattle Space Needle is one of the safest places to be in the northwest during an earthquake. It is built to withstand up to a 9.0 quake. The Space Needle's foundation base is almost 6,000 tons of cement, with its center of gravity 5 feet above ground level. The Space Needle is designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. The Space Needle sways in the winds about an inch per 10 miles per hour.

Today I was surprised to learn America has another Space Needle. It being in the town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The Gatlinburg Space Needle opened in 1970. It is shorter than the original. Did Seattle forget to get the Space Needle name copyrighted in 1962?

The Seattle Space Needle may be the #1 iconic landmark symbol of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. If the Space Needle is not #1 I'm not sure what is. Mount Rainier?


Steve A said...

Look at a Washington license plate and you will know what represents the state.

Durango Northwest said...

I think the locals know that that is on the license plates, but I recollect a friend in Seattle in a design class had to make a poster with iconic Northwest images. She had an upside down umbrella, the Seattle skyline, a ferry boat, Mt. Rainier. And the Space Needle. I showed this poster to a couple people here. The only thing they recognized was the Space Needle. Now, the Space Needle on the license plates would look really dumb. I think. It'd be like putting a Space Shuttle on your state's license plate.