It’s one of the most iconic towers in the world and the model of dozens more similar structures on the planet.
In this post, you’ll discover our list of the top 15 facts about the Space Needle, the most famous building in Seattle.
1. The Space Needle is a Seattle Landmark
The Space Needle is an iconic observation tower in Seattle, in the US State of Washington in the northwest of the country. It’s located in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood in the center of Seattle.
The tower has been an iconic landmark for multiple decades and has become a symbol not just of the city of Seattle but for the entire Pacific Northwest.
Therefore, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Board has designated it as a historic Seattle landmark on April 19, 1999.
2. It was built for a special event
Seattle was hosting the 1962 World Fair and an iconic monument had to be constructed to serve as the main attraction and centerpiece of this event.
The 1962 World Fair, which was held between April 21, 1962, and October 21, 1962, was a huge event as nearly 10 million people visited the fair.
The masterminds behind the Space Needle were businessman and chairman of the event, Edward E. Carlson, and architect John Graham, Jr.
3. It was inspired by a tower in Germany
Edward E. Carlson was a hotel owner and the president of the “Western International Hotels & Resorts.” Therefore, he traveled quite a bit and had recently visited the German city of Stuttgart.
During this visit, he saw the Stuttgart TV Tower, also referred to as the “Fernsehturm Stuttgart.” It’s this tower that inspired him to create a similar tower as the centerpiece of the event he was chairman of.
The tower in Stuttgart stands 216.61 meters (710.7 feet) tall.
4. It almost had a very different design
While Carlson was a very successful businessman, he wasn’t an architect and had no experience in designing any sort of building. He drew a design nonetheless which didn’t resemble the tower’s current design at all.
If his design had been chosen, the Seattle skyline would have looked completely different as it revolved around a giant balloon that was tethered to the ground with the tower built on top of it.
The flying saucer at the top which makes the tower so iconic wasn’t included in Carlson’s design.
5. The Space Needle’s architect already designed a similar restaurant
The final design wasn’t chosen until local architect John Graham Jr. got involved in the project and he introduced his idea of integrating a revolving restaurant and observation deck at the top of the tower.
Graham became famous in the area after creating the plan of the Northgate Mall in northern Seattle. He also had experience in creating a restaurant that is located in the sky.
He used a concept he already used in one of his other designs for the “La Ronde” tower restaurant at the Ala Moana Shopping Center in Hawaii.
La Ronde, which is now closed, was the first revolving restaurant in the United States and the third of its kind in the entire world when it opened in 1961.
6. There used to be 2 restaurants at the top
Initially, the flying saucer at the top of the tower had an observation deck and 2 revolving restaurants named the “Eye of the Needle” and the “Emerald Suite.”
These were closed in the year 2000 after a huge renovation project that cost USD 21 million, which is about the same as the entire construction cost of the tower of USD 4.5 million if we calculate with inflation in mind.
Right now, there is one large revolving restaurant called “SkyCity” which turns 360 degrees once every 47 minutes.
7. It used to be the tallest building in the west
The Space Needle stands 604 feet (184 meters) tall, which is only about half as high as the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris and only one-third of the height of the famous CN Tower in Toronto.
Regardless, upon completion in the year 1962, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River, replacing the Smith Tower in downtown Seattle which had been the tallest since 1914.
The observation deck of the tower is located at a height of 520 feet (160 meters) and offers amazing views of Downtown Seattle, the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Elliott Bay, and surrounding islands in Puget Sound!
Reaching the top of the tower can be done with 3 elevators that travel at a speed of 10 mph (16 km/h). You reach the top in exactly 41 seconds!
8. The tower can sustain extreme calamities
The foundation of the tower was dug 30 feet (9.1 meters) deep and 120 feet (37 meters) wide. This in combination with the fact that the tower weighs approximately 9,550 short tons (8,660 metric tons) makes it a very solid structure.
In fact, it can easily withstand winds of over up to 200 mph (320 km/h), which is a category 5 storm, and earthquakes with a magnitude of 9.0!
Eat this, Leaning Tower of Pisa!
9. It wasn’t actually needed to build such a strong tower
One of the most fascinating facts about the Space Needle is that the requirements with which the Space Needle was built were double the requirements in the building code of 1962.
Because of this, the 6.8 magnitude Nisqually earthquake only slightly jolted the tower, and it sways only 1 inch (25 mm) per 10 mph (16 km/h) of wind speed.
10. The Space Needle almost wasn’t built because of this
The Space Needle was financed completely privately and therefore didn’t have any pre-selected site for it to be constructed on. This made it necessary to purchase land within the fairgrounds.
The investors nearly gave up and almost shelved the plan for the tower to be constructed when they still didn’t find a lot just over 1 year before the World Fair of 1962 would start.
They ultimately found a 120 by 120 feet (37 by 37 meters) lot which was previously used to store switching equipment for the fire and police alarm systems.
The investors paid $75,000 for the land and scrambled to get all the paperwork to get started with the construction of the famous tower.
11. It took just over 1 year to build the tower
Time wasn’t on the side of the construction team and they had to work 24/7 to build the tower and get it ready for the World Fair.
The final elevator was installed the day before the World Fair opened and the construction of the tower took just over 400 days.
A pretty astounding achievement!
12. The tower was instantly a huge success
The tower was ready in April 1962, the month that the World Fair was about to open its doors. The elevator car was only installed a day earlier and instantly became super busy!
It’s estimated that about 20,000 people visited the observation deck of the Space Needle every day for the duration of the World Fair, a huge success.
The tower was painted in various colors as well, all referring to something to do with space. These included:
- Orbital Olive for the body.
- Astronaut White for the legs.
- Re-entry Red for the saucer.
- Galaxy Gold for the roof.
13. A fictional furry creature lives on top of the Space Needle
A children’s book published in the year 1974 and written by Stephen Cosgrove introduced a fictional character named “the Wheedle.” This furry character is supposed to live on top of the Space Needle.
The closing lines of the book read:
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.From the book “Wheedle on the Needle.”
The Wheedle character has since evolved into a popular mascot for the city of Seattle.
14. A $100 million USD renovation project was completed in 2018
A renovation project that cost a whopping USD 100 million was started in the summer of 2017 and completed about a year later. The tower got a complete overhaul and an all-glass floor was added to the top of the restaurant.
The scaffold used for the project weighed 28,000 pounds (13,000 kilos) and was 44,650 square feet (4,148 square meters) big. It was installed on the ground and lifted in the air with 500 feet (150 meters) long cables.
It was then attached to the underside of the flying saucer so construction workers could do their job. An immense endeavor!
15. There’s a massive fireworks display every New Year’s Eve
Just as many other tall structures such as Burj Khalifa, Taipei 101, or the CN Tower, the Space Needle is used for amazing firework shows.
Every New Year’s Eve, one of the leading firework engineers in the world named Alberto Navarro, ensures that the thousands of people watching below get to see an amazing show!
Navarro refers to his work as “Art in the Sky,” and who can deny it really is?! Just watch some footage of an amazing show below: