April 21, 1962: The Century 21 Exposition opens in Seattle. It was the first World’s Fair held in the US since World War II. Almost ten million people attended the exposition between April 21 and October 21 and the fair actually turned a profit. The exposition left behind a large fairground, numerous public buildings and the amazing Space Needle – seen in most skyline pictures of Seattle since. The Alweg monorail and several sports venues were also products of the World’s Fair. Seattle Center has grown slightly since and contains the Pacific Science Center and the Experience Music Project built 40 years later was designed to fit in with the scenery.
It was hoped to have the World’s Fair up and running for the 50th anniversary of Alaska joining the Union. However, with the Space Race taking up so much funding, it became impossible. Instead, the date was moved three years into the future creating a futuristic theme for the fair, as well. Boeing wanted to put Seattle on the map as “an aerospace city.” It was also hoped the US could show the USSR that we were not so far behind in the reach for the stars. Ewen Dingwall, Project Manager, went to Moscow to offer the Soviet government a chance to participate, but the invitation was declined.
President Kennedy was to attend the closing ceremonies, but he begged off with a “cold.” The Cold War had intervened and the Cuban Missile Crisis was taking up his attention. The fairgrounds were divided into several different areas with Worlds created for different genres: Science, Tomorrow, Commerce and Industry, Art, Entertainment, and many more. The Fair also had rides available. The Monorail, which still survives was partnered with the Skyride with cars riding on cables as high as 60 feet above ground.
During the months the fair was open, ≈ 20,000 people per day rose to the top of the Space Needle with 2.3 million people visiting the attraction. It is 605 feet high (with the aircraft beacon) and 138 feet wide (at its widest point). When it was finished, it was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. It was built to withstand winds of 200 mph and earthquakes measuring up to 9.1 in magnitude. There are 25 lightning rods on the roof, protecting it from lightning damage. The observation deck is at 520 feet and there is a gift shop and the rotating SkyCity restaurant is 20 feet lower.
Seattle isn’t really crazy anymore. It’s a big dot-com city. – Krist Novoselic
I grew up in Seattle, but I always knew I wanted to leave. – David Guterson
As far as the grunge thing, there are three bands from Seattle that I would call true grunge. – Adam Jones
My wife and I just prefer Seattle. It’s a beautiful city. Great setting. You open your front door in the morning and the air smells like pine and the sea, as opposed to bus exhaust. – Ron Reagan
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