General Space Needle Facts


By the Numbers

  • 1962: The year the Space Needle opened for the Seattle World’s Fair.
  • 4.5 million: The number of dollars it cost to build the Space Needle.
  • 605: The number of feet from the ground to the top of the Space Needle’s red aircraft warning beacon.
  • 400: Approximate number of days it took to build the Space Needle, which was dubbed the “400-day wonder.”
  • 5,600: The number of tons of concrete poured into the Space Needle’s foundation. At the time it was the largest continuous pour of concrete west of the Mississippi.
  • 74,000: The number of bolts holding the tower together.
  • 3.92: The hourly wage in dollars the ironworkers who built the tower were paid.
  • 2.65: The number of people who visited the Space Needle during the 1962 World’s Fair, in millions.
  • 120 x 120: The size of the lot the Space Needle was built on. It was the site of an old fire station.
  • $75,000: The cost of that lot for the Space Needle’s original investors in 1961.
  • 848: The number of stairs from the tower’s basement to the Observation Deck.
  • 1: The number of motors it took to turn the Space Needle’s original turntable.
  • 6.5: The magnitude of the first major earthquake that shook the Space Needle in 1965. The only damage resulted in broken bottle of champagne.
  • 200: The number of miles per hour of wind the tower was built to withstand.
  • 1982: The year the Space Needle opened its new Skyline banquet facility at the 100’ level.
  • 1999: The year the Space Needle was designated an official Seattle landmark.
  • 25: The number of people who can be carried in one of the Space Needle’s elevators.
  • 42: The number of seconds it takes to go from the ground to the tower’s tophouse.
  • 800: The speed per minute of the elevators, in feet.
  • 47: The number of minutes to make one revolution in the Space Needle’s lower level.

The People

  • The idea for Space Needle was first doodled on a napkin or placemat by Seattle hotel executive Edward “Eddie” Carlson during a visit to Stuttgart, Germany in 1959. He saw the potential of a Space Age tower as a symbol for the 1962 fair and the Seattle skyline.
  • Five Seattle investors organized the “Pentagram Corporation” to build the Space Needle. They were financier Bagley Wright, contractor Howard S. Wright, architect John Graham, Jr., financier Ned Skinner, and timber magnate Norton Clapp. The Howard Wright Construction Company was the general contractor. In 1977 Bagley Wright, Skinner and Clapp sold their interests to Howard S. Wright. The Pentagram Corporation has since become the Space Needle LLC.
  • Chief architect John Graham Jr. oversaw the tower’s design. He wanted the top of the structure to resemble a UFO. He also had built a revolving bar in Hawaii and adapted that turntable technology to the Space Needle, making it the first free-standing rotating restaurant in the world.
  • Elvis Presley made a movie at the fair that featured a love scene in the tower’s original restaurant.
  • During the fair the Space Needle was a magnet for ‘60s leaders, artists and celebrities, including The Shah and Empress of Iran, King Olaf of Norway, Prince Philip, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Bobby Kennedy, Walter Cronkite, John Wayne, Walt Disney, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Johnny Mathis, Billy Graham, Peggy Lee, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Leontyne Price, Chubby Checker, and scores of others.
  • Many celebrities have visited the tower since, including Kelsey Grammer and all the cast of Cheers, Mike Myers, Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, the original cast of Star Wars, John Travolta, Vanna White, Michael Douglas, Tim Robbins, Claudia Schiffer, Scott Bakula, Paul Reiser and Bruce Lee.
  • Renowned moon-walking astronaut Buzz Aldrin visited in 2012 to present the winner of the Space Race promotion celebrating the Space Needle’s 50th Anniversary. The grand prize: a sub-orbital trip into space.
  • Many Seattle musicians and bands have visited or performed at the tower, including Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and Macklemore.
  • Not all musicians are able to make the journey to the top of the tower. In 1964, John Lenon wasn’t able to go up, later explaining “I don’t like heights.”
  • In 1966, a young Bill Gates won a dinner at the Space Needle from his church for memorizing the Bible’s Sermon on the Mount. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest, is now located right across the street.
  • A number of famous Hollywood films have featured the Space Needle. Elvis Presley’s crooned in “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” Dr. Evil commandeered the tophouse as his super villain headquarters in “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” and the political thriller “The Parallax View” starring Warren Beatty featured a dramatic chase scene on top.
  • The popular children’s book character, the Wheedle, is said to live on top of the Space Needle where his red nose glows. The Wheedle was also a mascot of the SuperSonics, Seattle’s onetime championship NBA basketball team.
  • The Space Needle hosted the first challenge of Season 10 for the popular TV Show, Top Chef. In this season opener, celebrity judges Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse, and Gail Simmons were featured at the tower. Tom Douglas also served as the local judge.

Unusual Facts

  • The Space Needle’s original colors were Astronaut White (the tower), Orbital Olive (the core), Re-entry Red (the halo) and Galaxy Gold (the top). Galaxy Gold was actually more of a tangerine.
  • The original design was topped with a flaming natural gas torch that lit up at night with rainbow colors.
  • In July 1962, the Space Needle was featured in the first live trans-Atlantic TV broadcast which reached 200 million viewers.
  • The original name of the Space Needle’s restaurant was “Eye of the Needle”.
  • At the turn of the 21st century, the Space Needle unveiled a new Legacy Light that projects a beam straight into the night sky. It was first used on New Years Eve, 1999-2000.
  • The Space Needle’s graceful, wasp-waisted tower shape was based on an abstract sculpture by artist Don Lemon titled, “the Feminine One.”
  • In 1982, the Space Needle staff “buried” a time capsule in the structure. It was found and opened during the tower’s renovation in 2017.
  • The city of Fife, located in Washington state, offered $1 million to move the Space Needle to its downtown.
  • The Committee Hoping for Extra-Terrestrial Encounters to Save the Earth (CHEESE) claims to have plans from the 1962 World’s Fair that show the Space Needle was constructed to send transmissions to advanced beings in other solar systems.
  • There have been six parachute jumps from the structure; two were unauthorized and the other four were part of a promotion.
  • As an April Fool’s joke, a local television station aired a phony report that the Space Needle had fallen over. Emergency phone lines were swamped with calls. The Space Needle received more than 700 calls, even though there was a flashing alert during the entire report telling the audience that it was a joke. One Spokane man even jumped in his car and began driving to Seattle because his daughter worked at the Space Needle.
  • The Space Needle moved 312 feet southwest in June 1987. However, the move was only on paper. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began a 10-year project of re-mapping the earth by satellite. Major structures, such as the Space Needle, were used as landmarks.