Seattle holds groundbreaking ceremony for the Space Needle on April 17, 1961.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 1/19/1999
  • Essay 722
On April 17, 1961, ground breaking ceremonies for the Space Needle are held. It will be a 605-foot high structure in a tripod design topped by an observation deck and a revolving restaurant that will turn 360 degrees an hour. It will be the tallest structure in the city, 86 feet taller than the Smith Tower.

The major investors in this private venture were Bagley Wright (1924-2011), Ned Skinner, Norton Clapp, John Graham, the architect, and Howard S. Wright Construction, the main contractor. They had just one year and four days to construct the Space Needle, to be completed for the opening of the Seattle Century 21 World's Fair.

Earthquake Resistant, Gale Tolerant

The Space Needle is located in Seattle Center at 203 6th Avenue N. The site was the former location of the City of Seattle fire station. It is made of three I-beams weighing 45 tons each. It has 24 lightning rods on top, a revolving restaurant 500 feet above ground, and a skyline (100-foot) level restaurant added later. It has a glass elevator.

According to the construction firm (Howard S. Wright Construction Co.), the foundation of the Space Needle consists of 5,850 tons of concrete and steel, resting on a 30-foot foundation, with the center of gravity just above ground level. The firm states that, "Its earthquake resistance is twice that required by code, and its wind resistance allows it to tolerate gales over 150 miles per hour" (Wright Construction Co.).

The Space Needle was designated a historic landmark on April 19, 1999.

Sources: Don Duncan, Meet Me at the Center: The Story of Seattle Center From the Beginnings to 1962 Seattle World's Fair to the 21st Century (Seattle: Seattle Center Foundation, 1992), 43-44; "Space Needle Construction," Howard S. Wright Construction Co. website accessed on January 15, 1999 (; "Space Needle," (
Note: This essay was revised on April 4, 2001.

Related Topics:   Buildings | Century 21 Exposition | Fairs & Festivals | Landmarks

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