Groundbreaking for the Space Needle is held in Seattle on April 17, 1961.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 1/19/1999
  • Essay 722
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On April 17, 1961, ground breaking ceremonies for the Space Needle are held. The most eye-catching and iconic of the structures erected for the 1962 Century 21 Exposition (Seattle World's Fair), the Space Needle will be 605 feet high in a tripod design topped by an observation deck and a revolving restaurant that will turn 360 degrees an hour. Upon opening in April 1962 it will be the tallest structure in the city, 86 feet taller than the Smith Tower.

The major investors in the private venture to build the Space Needle 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 before the April 21, 1962, opening of the World's Fair.

Earthquake Resistant, Gale Tolerant

The Space Needle was built at 400 Broad Street on the former site of a City of Seattle fire station. It was constructed of three I-beams weighing 45 tons each. There were 24 lightning rods on top with a revolving restaurant 500 feet above ground. A skyline (100-foot) level restaurant added later. A glass elevator carried visitors to the top.

According to the construction firm (Howard S. Wright Construction Co.), the foundation of the Space Needle consisted 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 stated 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.


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, and corrected on April 17, 2017.

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