/ Attractions / Seattle’s Historic Flying Saucer – The Space Needle

Seattle’s Historic Flying Saucer – The Space Needle

Seattle Skyline at Night
Nicole Voltapetti on January 2, 2014 - 7:57 pm in Attractions, Places to visit

Seattle’s Space Needle was developed in 1962 for the World’s Fair and is now a nationally recognized landmark of the Emerald City.

In the Beginning

When Seattle city councilman, Al Rochester, thought about his childhood, his fond memories at the fair were always a standout.  Remembering how much fun he had as a child and wanting to benefit the city, he proposed the idea for Seattle to host a World’s Fair.  After 2 years of promoting the World’s Fair, Rochester’s idea received sufficient support from the city and the next phase of the project began, determining the fair’s theme.

Plans for the Seattle World’s Fair were developed during a great time of technological advancement.  As the world was at the height of the Space Race, it seemed appropriate that the fair have a futuristic, space-age theme, and so the Seattle World’s Fair became known as the “Century 21 Exposition.”

General Motors Exhibit at Century 21

General Motors Exhibit at Century 21 Exposition

Seattle wasn’t the only city planning on hosting a World’s Fair.  New York City was also gunning to host a worldwide exhibit, but Seattle’s charm and community support won over the Bureau of International Exhibits, forcing New York to postpone their plans.  In addition to the national support Seattle received, Century 21 garnered contributions from 35 foreign countries, providing visitors with the crème de la crème of international scientific presentations.

Having the futuristic exhibits planned out, it was now time to involve the media.  The fair needed something eye-catching for the public to associate Century 21 with.  Enter:  The Space Needle.

Space Needle’s Creation

Edward Carlson was an architect and driving force behind the Seattle World’s Fair.  He served as President of the Century 21 Exposition and promoted the fair on both local and national levels.  In addition to promoting and managing the fair, Carlson also created the initial UFO-like design for the tower after being inspired by the Stuttgart Tower in Germany.


Stuttgart Tower in Germany.

Carlson’s initial design went through multiple revisions, including one idea for the tower to be shaped like a balloon.  The final Space Needle figure was a combined effort, but the design is largely credited to John Graham, another leading architect for Century 21.  Graham refined the balloon scheme into the flying saucer-shape figure currently displayed and also contributed the idea of having a revolving restaurant – the 2nd revolving restaurant to open in the U.S.

1960s Photo of the Space Needle

1960s Photo of the Space Needle


Over  9000 tons of structural material was used to actualize the Space Needle’s design.  The 605 ft. tower was built upon a supporting concrete foundation running 120 ft. long and 30 ft. deep (roughly 5 Olympic swimming pools), enabling the structure to withstand forces of nature including hurricanes and earthquakes.

What You’ll See Today

Seattle Skyline at Night

Today, over a million visitors tour the Space Needle every year.  Guests can tour this facility which features a gift shop, banquet room, award-winning restaurant, and best of all, a gorgeous view of the city.

The Space Needle’s restaurant, SkyCity, features Pacific Northwestern cuisine.  Visitors can enjoy some of Washington’s finest fare while taking in Seattle’s breathtaking skyline at this revolving restaurant.

The Space Needle is not just a tourist destination; it’s also frequently rented out for banquets and parties.  Seattle’s popular New Year’s Eve party takes place at this iconic tower, with festivities including champagne, dancing, and fireworks.

For more information, visit www.spaceneedle.com

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Dollar Photo Club.



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