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April 17, 2014 - April 23, 2014

High in the Sky

On April 17, 1961, a modest crowd gathered in Seattle to watch groundbreaking ceremonies for the Space Needle. It took a month to dig the 30-foot-deep hole for the foundation, which required 2,800 cubic yards of concrete and rebar to fill. Eight months later, workers topped off the structure, which was then fitted out and sharpened up in time for the opening of the Seattle World's Fair on April 21, 1962.

The concept for the Needle came to Seattle World's Fair Commission chair Eddie Carlson in 1959, while he dined in a restaurant atop a broadcast tower in Stuttgart, Germany. Convinced that a similar structure would become a defining symbol for the space-age fair in Seattle, he doodled his idea for fellow fair officials, who passed it along to architects John Graham Jr., Victor Steinbrueck, and John Ridley to give it form.

Graham, who had previously built Northgate Mall -- which also celebrates an anniversary this week -- led the design process, and also became one of five investors to fund the Needle's construction, along with Bagley Wright, Ned Skinner, Norton Clapp, and Howard S. Wright. Building the structure was an engineering feat that required tremendous amounts of steel to support the observation platform and revolving restaurant at the top.

The Space Needle proved to be one of the most popular attractions at the Century 21 Exposition, and remains so in the actual twenty-first century that it was meant to inspire. It was designated a City of Seattle historic landmark 15 years ago this week, and it still looks as modern today as it did five decades ago.

Down on the Ground

On April 20, 1825, Scottish naturalist David Douglas arrived at Fort Vancouver, one month after the fur-trading outpost opened on the north bank of the Columbia River in present-day Clark County. Douglas, a collector for England's Horticultural Society, was dispatched to the Northwest coast to bring back specimens and seeds of regional plants for introduction into British gardens and forests.

For the next two years, Douglas traveled extensively throughout present-day Washington and Oregon collecting thousands of plant specimens, as well as geological samples. Most of his first year was spent exploring the wet western forests, and included the first recorded ascent of the Cascade Mountains. In 1826, he extended his explorations eastward and visited retired fur trader Jaco Finlay, founder of Spokane House. After returning to England, Douglas made two more journeys to the Columbia River before dying under mysterious circumstances in Hawaii in 1834.

News Then, History Now

Meet and Greet: On April 22, 1812, less than a year after he arrived at Kettle Falls, explorer and mapmaker David Thompson left there for Montreal, his survey of the Columbia River complete. During his travels, Thompson documented many of his meetings with Indian tribes, including the Sanpoil, the Nespelem, the Methow, the Sinkayuse, the Wanapum, and the Palus.

Feel the Heat: One hundred and twenty-five years ago this week, on April 18, 1889, a devastating fire wiped out much of Cheney. The town rebuilt in brick, but suffered yet again when the main administration building of the State Normal School -- now Eastern Washington University -- burned down on April 24, 1912.

Ferry Call: One hundred years ago this week, on April 23, 1914, the ferry Suquamish -- the first diesel-powered passenger vessel built in the United States -- was launched in Seattle. Sixty years ago this week, on April 17, 1954, the ferry Rhododendron entered service as the first vessel purchased by the newly formed Washington State Ferries. Last year, the Rhody was sold following her retirement.

Music Hall: Eighty-five years ago this week, on April 19, 1929, the Fox Theatre became the last movie house to open in Seattle before the stock market crashed later that year. Renovated by new owners and renamed the Roxy, the venue became the target of a mysterious bombing incident on April 17, 1933. Despite the best efforts of Allied Arts, a wrecking ball demolished the theater -- by then called the Music Hall -- in 1991.

Walkout: One of Washington's longest and nastiest strikes began on April 22, 1948, when aeromechanics walked out of Boeing. Group Health Cooperative expressed solidarity with the machinists, but the strike took a peculiar twist when Boeing allied with Teamsters leader Dave Beck to lure workers into an alternative union local. The IAM beat back Beck, but returned to work after six months with no new contract.

Green Sprout: The first Earth Day celebration was held on April 22, 1970, to raise awareness of environmental issues. On that day, Washington Senator Henry M. Jackson -- a leader on environmental legislation -- spoke at UW and WSU, but was jeered due to his hawkish stance on the Vietnam War. Some students pelted him with marshmallows, but Jackson caught a few and threw them back, eliciting cheers.


Quote of the Week

There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.

                          --G. K. Chesterton


Image of the Week

The Tacoma Dome opened on April 21, 1983.

 
Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

Fire devastates Cheney on April 18, 1889.

Redmond beginnings: York Post Office (later Derby, later Redmond) opens on April 18, 1890.

Author Henry James visits Seattle on April 18, 1905.

Airmen from McChord Field take part in Doolittle Raid against Japan on April 18, 1942.

First Seattle production of Hair debuts at the Moore Theater on April 18, 1970.

China-U.S. trade resumes as M.V. Liu Lin Hai docks at Port of Seattle on April 18, 1979.

One of Western Washington's latest lowland snowfalls on record begins on April 18, 2008.

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