This streamlined, modern-before-its-time tower built for the 1962 World’s Fair has been the city’s defining symbol for over 50 years.
The architecture of the Space Needle is the result of a compromise between the designs of two men, Edward E. Carlson and John Graham, Jr; Edward E. Carlson’s sketch of a giant balloon tethered to the ground (see the gently sloping base) and architect John Graham’s concept of a flying saucer.
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.
Once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River, it is 184 meters (605 feet) high, 42 meters (138 feet) wide, and weighs 8,660 tonnes (9,550 US tons).
It is built to withstand winds of up to 90 meters per second (200 miles per hour) and earthquakes of up to 9.1 magnitude.
To balance its 184 meter (605 foot) structure, the Space Needle’s concrete foundation had to be 9 meters (30 feet) deep because its base was limited to a 36 by 36 meter (120 by 120 foot) area, due to size constraints of the lot it was purchased on.
The lot was formerly owned by the city of Seattle, then sold to investors for $75,000. Purchased in 1961, the Space Needle was given a record-breaking goal of being built in a little over a year, to be featured at the opening of the World’s Fair. The construction was successfully finished in 400 days.
To help make the Space Needle’s public reveal all the more dazzling, a massive flame burned bright at the head of the tower throughout the run of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. Called the needle of flame, the natural gas torch producing the flame was between 12 and 15 meters (40 and 50 feet) tall.
The 1962 World’s Fair drew over 2.3 million visitors, when nearly 20,000 people a day used its elevators.
The Space Needle has an observation deck at 160 meters (520 feet) and the rotating SkyCity restaurant at 150 meters (500 feet).
The space needle observation deck, provides a 360 view of Seattle as well as the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Elliott Bay and surrounding islands especially, on a clear day. Swarovski telescopes offer visitors a closer look at city and its surrounding area.
SkyCity Restaurant is a rotating restaurant located at the top of the Seattle Space Needle. This exceptional restaurant offers a unique dining experience, with a rotating dining room that allows diners to enjoy a world-class meal paired with spectacular views.
The entire Space Needle saucer does not rotate, only a 4,3 meter (14 foot) ring next to the windows rotates on the SkyCity restaurant level.
In 1982, the SkyLine level was added at a height of 30 meters (100 feet). 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.
On December 31, 1999, a powerful beam of light was unveiled for the first time. Called the Legacy Light or Skybeam, it is powered by lamps that total 85 million candela shining skyward from the top of the Space Needle to honor national holidays and special occasions in Seattle.
Visitors can reach the top of the Space Needle by three elevators that travel at 4.5 meters per second (10 miles per hour). The trip takes 41 seconds. On windy days, the elevators slow to 5 miles per hour (2.2 m/s). Each elevator carries 25 people.
The main stairwell has 848 steps from the basement to the top of the observation deck.
25 lightning rods (24 actual rods, plus the tower) are on the roof of the Needle to withstand lightning strikes.
The Space Needle was built at a cost of $4.5 million. In 2000, the Space Needle completed a $20 million revitalization.
Every year on New Year’s Eve, the Space Needle celebrates with a fireworks show at midnight that is synchronized to music. The worldwide renowned fireworks artist from Bellevue, Alberto Navarro has been designing the show for the past 20 year.
The Space Needle annually hosts more than 1 million visitors, making it the #1 tourist attraction in the Northwest.
Being a major symbol of the Pacific Northwest, the Space Needle has made numerous appearances in films, TV shows and other works of fiction. A couple examples of films are: It Happened at the World’s Fair (1962), where it was used as a filming location, and Sleepless in Seattle (1993). In TV shows, one of the most prominent showings is in the series Frasier.
Six parachutists have leaped from the tower since its opening, in a sport known as BASE jumping. This activity is only legal with prior consent. Four of them were part of an authorized promotion in 1996, and the other two were arrested.
In May 2008, the Space Needle received its first professional cleaning since the opening of the 1962 World’s Fair.
The city of Fife, Washington, offered $1 million to move the Space Needle to its downtown.
The Committee Hoping for Extra-Terrestrial Encounters to Save the Earth (CHEESE) claims to have plans from the 1962 World’s Fair that show the Space Needle was constructed to send transmissions to advanced beings in other solar systems.
As an April Fool’s joke a local television station aired a phony report that the Space Needle had fallen over. Emergency phone lines were swamped with calls.