Walk outside the doors of The Century and look straight up. You will probably notice that you are standing in the shadow of the Space Needle. But did you know how its history plays into the name of your home?
If you’ve lived in Seattle a long time, you’ve heard the story of how the Space Needle was built in 1962 for the Seattle World’s Fair. But what most people don’t know is that the official name of the event was The Century 21 Exposition.
A Little History
The Century 21 Exposition was held between April 21 and October 21, 1962 and drew almost 10 million visitors. A 28-acre parcel of city-owned land near Queen Anne Hill was eventually chosen for the site of the Fair over larger and more nominally attractive sites such as Fort Lawton (800 acres) and Sand Point Naval Air Station (350 acres).
The site’s proximity to the downtown area, as well as the interest in converting the Exposition’s permanent facilities into a Civic Center after the fair made this location attractive to the planners. (Source: Seattle.gov)
The US Government, wanted to demonstrate country’s scientific prowess to the world, and committed over $9 million to the fair, chiefly to build the NASA-themed United States Science Exhibit (now the Pacific Science Center). An (at the time) ultra-modern Monorail line was also developed to ferry tourists from downtown Seattle to the fairgrounds.
But the visual centerpiece would be the Space Needle, so construction began. By the time it was completed, it came in at 605-feet, cost $6.5 million and had a rotating restaurant. It was considered a risky investment because of its grandiose dimensions and spectacular design, but became wildly popular. (Source: Seattle.gov)
Other Interesting Tidbits About the Fair
- The ‘King of Rock and Roll,’ Elvis Presley, shot a film here, “It Happened at the World’s Fair.”
- A number of celebrities came to the Exposition as tourists, including Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, Walt Disney, and Prince Phillip of Great Britain.
- By the close of the fair on October 21, a total of 9,609,969 people officially visited.
- Nearly half of its surface area was occupied by the state’s own circular exhibit “Century 21—The Threshold and the Threat”, also known as the “World of Tomorrow” exhibit, billed as a “21-minute tour of the future”. The building also housed exhibits by France, Pan American World Airways (Pan Am), General Motors (GM), the American Library Association (ALA), and RCA, as well as a Washington state tourist center.
- In “The Threshold and the Threat”, visitors rode a “Bubbleator” into the “world of tomorrow”. Music “from another world” and a shifting pattern of lights accompanied them on a 40-second upward journey to a starry space bathed in golden light. Then they were faced briefly with an image of a desperate family in a fallout shelter, which vanished and was replaced by a series of images reflecting the sweep of history, starting with the Acropolis and ending with an image of Marilyn Monroe (but, again, including a mushroom cloud).
Read more about the Century 21 Exposition