10 fun facts about Space Needle

Space Needle is an observation tower in Seattle, the United States, the Needle is the icon of Seattle, it was built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

Like some other structures built for World’s Fair in the world, e.g. Eiffel Tower in Paris, Space Needle is preserved after the fair, and gradually became the most noted landmark of the city. Being an observation tower, the Needle has been the most popular tourist attraction in Seattle. Below are some interesting facts about Space Needle.

1. Space Needle stands 605 ft ( 184 m), it was once the tallest man-made structure west of Mississippi. The hovering disk on the top is 138 ft (42 m) in diameter. The structure of tower weighs 9550 tons, that’s equal to approximately 2000 elephants.

2. The hovering disk at the top of Space Needle has 5 levels. one of these levels is occupied by an observation deck that opens to public.

The height of observation deck is 160 m from the ground, it features both indoor and outdoor viewing platforms.


There’s a revolving restaurant named SkyCity right below the observation deck at 500 ft (150 m), the restaurant rotates 360 degree every 47 minutes. From the observation deck or restaurant, visitors can get the panorama view of Seattle and surrounding natural views, including the skyline of downtown, Elliott Bay, Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Baker, and Mount Rainier, which resembles the Mount Fuji in Japan and can be found in the same direction of the city skyline.

Seattle skyline and Mount Rainier
Seattle skyline and Mount Rainier seen from the observation deck on Space Needle

Visitors can reach the top of the Space Needle by high speed elevators that travel at 4.5 m/s, it takes just 41 seconds to reach the observation deck. Besides the elevators, a stairway that contains 848 steps from the basement to the top of the tower was added in 2000.
As of April 2018, the admission fee of the Space Needle is $22 for adults, $14 for 5-12 years old, $19 for seniors over 65 years old.

3. In 1966, Bill Gates won a dinner at the restaurant on Space Needle offered by his pastor, when he was 11 years old, to win the opportunity, Gates had to memorize the chapters 5, 6, and 7 of the Gospel of Matthew, which correspond to the Sermon on the Mount, and he recited the sermon flawlessly.

4. Space Needle was first conceived by Edward F. Carson, who’s the chairman of 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. One day, he was having lunch at the restaurant on Stuttgart Tower in Germany, he accidentally came up the idea of building a similar tower with a restaurant on the top in the fairgrounds of Word Fair, he drew his idea on a napkin and sent it the officials of the World Fair. The sketch of his design shows a giant balloon tethered to the ground, which corresponds to the theme “Human in Space era” of 1962 World Fair. Edward has no experience of architecture, soon after that the architect John Graham was involved in the design work, he’s known for being the designer of the nation’s first shopping mall, the Northgate Mall in Seattle. He altered the balloon in Edward’s design to a flying saucer, this feature had been applied on a revolving restaurant named La Ronde he previously designed for Ala Moana Shopping Center in Honolulu.

And in the later, another Seattle architect Victor Steinbrueck introduced the hourglass legs for the tower.


5. It took a very long time for the plot for the project to be found, the location was only settled in 1961, when only 13 months left before the World’s Fair begin. For the reason of limited time, the construction team worked around the clock, the Space Needle was built within less than one year, the last elevator was installed only one day before the opening of World’s Fair on April 21, 1962. The construction cost $4.5 million by that time.

6. Space Needle is designed to withstand earthquakes of up to 9.1 magnitude in Richter scale, stronger than the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, for the region of Northwest America, such a strong earthquake only occurred once in history, it was the 1700 Cascadia earthquake.
And the tower can withstand winds of up to 200 miles/h (322 km/h or 89m/s), double the requirements in the building code of 1960s in America.
It also has 25 lightning rods, one of them is its spire on the top, the other 24 are normal rods.

7. Unlike many other similar observation towers in the world, such as the CN Tower in Toronto, Sky Tower in Auckland, Space Needle is not used for broadcasting or telecommunication purposes, it’s only for observation purpose.

8. In 1982, the SkyLine level was added to the tower at a height of 100 ft (30 m). Similar to the hovering disk, the SkyLine level is also a hovering structure supported by the white legs, this level is shown in the original plans for the Space Needle, it was not built until this time. The SkyLine Banquet Facility can accommodate groups of up to 360 visitor.

9. Every year on New Year’s Eve, the Space Needle celebrates with a fireworks show that is synchronized to music. The renowned fireworks artist from Bellevue, Alberto Navarro has been designing the show for the past 24 years since its inception in 1994.

10. As of March 2018, Space Needle is undergoing a renovation, which was began in September 2017 and is estimated to cost $100 million.

Space Needle under renovation
Space Needle under renovation

The renovation will replace the wire enclosure of observation deck with glass panels, which is believed to be able to offer better and unobstructed views. Besides the observation deck, the floors in the revolving restaurant will be replaced with see-through glass floors, a new rotation motor will be installed, for this, the restaurant was temporarily closed, but the observation deck is remain open during the renovation.

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