Queen Anne 7 Fascinating Facts About the Space Needle
- Matt Miner,
- May 19, 2022
This year, the Space Needle is celebrating its 60th anniversary! Happy 60th birthday to the Space Needle!
To celebrate this icon’s birthday, we thought it would be fun to share some fascinating facts about the Space Needle. If you’re a local or have ever visited the Space Needle, you probably already know that the Space Needle was constructed for the 1962 World’s Fair. In 1962, the fair had a space age theme, so obviously, a flying saucer needed to be incorporated into the design!
Wait, what?! About 1.3 million guests visit the Space Needle every single year, and it definitely feels like a public institution. But this beloved landmark is privately owned by the Wright family, and the 120’ x 120’ parcel that the Space Needle sits on is the only private property on the 74 acres that make up the Seattle Center.
Who is the Wright family, you may be wondering? The Howard S. Wright Construction Company was established in 1885, and this company was responsible for building several famous landmarks and buildings. (Ever heard of the Columbia Tower or the, uh… Grand Coulee Dam? Yep, that’s the Wright family.) Today, the company is called Wright Hotels Inc., and in addition to the Space Needle, the Wright family owns the Chihuly garden and Glass, Sheraton Seattle, Monterey Marriott, Semiahmoo Resort, Cedarbrook Lodge, and more. To learn even more about this family’s history and legacy, check out this great interview with Howard S. Wright III (his great-grandfather is the original founder of the company).
The Space Needle’s design has a few notable sources of inspiration for its design. Like we mentioned in the intro, the World’s Fair that year had a space age-theme, so the flying saucer aspect is definitely prominent. Edward E. Carlson, the main organizer of the World’s Fair, is given credit for sketching the first design of the Space Needle on a napkin. John Graham was the architect (and is also sometimes given credit for the design), and also designed Seattle’s Northgate, which is the world’s first auto-centric shopping mall.
As for the tower shape, Architect Victor Steinbrueck drew inspiration from “The Feminine One,” an abstract sculpture by artist Don Lemon.
In 2018, The Loupe (aka the revolving floor) was installed in the Space Needle. Visitors can enjoy a fresh perspective from this windowed floor. The glass here is designed like reinforced concrete, and according to SpaceNeedle.com, “Each section was custom-designed with multiple redundant layers of structural glass fused together with a high-strength interlayer giving the glass composite a strength capacity up to five times the design loads used for code requirements.” The glass has been extensively tested to ensure it’s safe during strong wind, live loads, and human impact. If you’re interested in learning more about the strength and safety of the glass in the Space Needle, this info is fascinating!
$100 million may be pocket change to Bezos, but it’s still a lot of money! Back in 1962 when the Space Needle was built, it cost $4.5 million (still a lot of money).
An abundance of caution was used in the design of the Space Needle. The construction of the Space Needle is pretty fascinating—a hole 30’ deep and 120’ across was filled with cement to create the foundation. 467 cement trucks lined up for an entire day to fill the hole, and the foundation weighs as much as the Space Needle itself!
… And a ton of people believed it was real! Seattle’s 911 system was overwhelmed with people calling in, and the prank received international attention. You can watch the clip here:
Yes, we can’t make this stuff up! Apparently Sneedle was created to celebrate the Space Needle’s 35th anniversary in 1997.