AKA: Century 21 Exposition, Space Needle, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - exhibition buildings - exposition buildings

Designers: Graham, John and Company, Architects and Engineers (firm); Kelly and Pittelko, Consulting Engineers (firm); McCarthy Building Companies, Incorporated, General Contractors (firm); Minasian, John K. (firm); Steinbrueck, Victor, Architect (firm); Wright, Howard S., (HSW) Construction Company (firm); Earle Gordon Duff (architectural draftsman); Alfred Hans Fast (architect); John Graham Jr. (architect); Albert Kelly (engineer); Timothy McCarthy (building contractor); John K. Minasian (structural engineer); Harvey Paul Pittelko (engineer); John Francis Havergal Thompson Ridley (architect); Victor Eugene Steinbrueck (architect); Nathan Wilkinson Jr. (architect); Howard S. Wright (building contractor/developer)

Dates: constructed 1960-1962

view all images ( of 2 shown)

400 Broad Street
Seattle, WA 98109

OpenStreetMap (new tab)
Google Map (new tab)
click to view google map
Google Streetview (new tab)
click to view google map
Located in the Seattle Center, the site of the 1962 World's Fair; Lat: 47.62083 Lon: -122.3475; alternate address: 219 4th Avenue North;

Building History

The Pentagram Corporation, a consortium of five investors, pooled funds to enable the erection of the iconic Seattle Space Needle. The group of five was composed of highly connected and civically-minded men: Bagley Wright (1924-2011), the Chairman of Physio Control Corporation (168-1980), a wealthy private investor and arts philanthropist; Howard S. Wright II (1927-1996), owner of a large construction company; David E. "Ned" Skinner, II (1920-1988), real estate investor and financier; Norton Clapp (1906-1995), former President and CEO of the Weyerhaeuser Corporation; and John Graham, Jr., (1908-1991), a noted Seattle architect and developer. Clapp, Skinner and Bagley sold their interests in the Space Needle to Howard Wright in 1977; Wright called his new ownership company the "Space Needle Corporation." Graham's firm was credited with its design, but Graham, Victor Steinbrueck, and John Ridley collaboratively designed the Space Needle to be the high point of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair; who can be called the prime designer has been a subject of controversy; Seattle writer Murray Morgan, in his book, "Century 21," (Seattle: Acme Press, 1963), stated that the Space Needle received design refinements from Victor Steinbrueck, John Ridley and Nate Wilkinson. "Vic Steinbrueck of the University of Washington School of Architecture was called in as a consultant and, with John Ridley, finally hit on the tripod as a substitute for the columnar supporting base. That eliminated the need of supporting cables and gave the structure a delicacy other designs had lacked. Nate Wilkinson suggested leaving the radial steel floor supports uncovered to giver greater delicacy." (p. 137). Recent investigators have begun to focus on Steinbrueck's contributions in the process.

Within the Graham firm, Alfred H. Fast (1917-2004), served as the Project Architect for the Space Needle. John K. Minasian, an expert on tower design, was flown from Pasadena, CA, to consult on specifics of the Space Needle in mid-02/1961. His construction drawings for the building were dated 04/17/1961. (A "BW" and "GNC" [Gary N. Curtis] drew the drawing for Minasian's firm. Minasian's drawings have been held in the University of Washington Libraries, Department of Special Collections, as have those of John Graham and Company.) Kelly and Pittelko, Consulting Engineers are credited with refining the rebar detailing of the Space Needle's foundations. The Pacific Car and Foundry Company produced the steel and erected the framing for the tower in a rapid, efficient process during 1961-1962.

Building Notes

In 1967, the rooftop restaurant of the Space Needle was operated by Western International Hotels. (See "8 Trapped in Elevator at Needle," Seattle Times, 09/16/1967, Second Section, p. 15.)

Space Needle expert Knute Berger has noted that according to "'The Space Needle: Symbol of Seattle' by Robert Spector, the original colors were 'Astronaut White for the legs, Orbital Olive for the core, Re-entry Red for the halo, and Galaxy Gold for the sunburst and pagoda roof.'" (See Knute Berger, "Speaking of the Space Needle...," article in Crosscut 08/17/2010,Accessed 05/12/2011.) By Berger's count, the Space Needle has been repainted 4 times since 1962. Tel: 206-443-2100 (2006). Preliminary engineering studies were undertaken at the University of Washington Aeronautical Laboratory, Kirsten Wind Tunnel in 1961 supervised by Professor Alfred Lawrence Miller (1897-1965). (See "University of Washington Aeronautical Laboratory,"Accessed 07/20/2011.) A powerful 6.5-magnitude earthquake on 04/29/1965 struck Seattle and the Space Needle, causing the manager of the building's rooftop restaurant to comment: "It was just like riding the top of a flagpole." No damage occurred to the landmark at this time, save for two liquor bottles smashing to the floor. Architect John Graham, Jr., stopped in to the restaurant that day to check how well the building performed; its deep foundations, concrete and steel frame, and low center of gravity helped to minimize damage. Western International Hotels operated the 254-seat rooftop eatery in 1965. (See "Quake Whips Needle Top, but 'Place Built to Take It,'" Seattle Times, 04/29/1965, p. 4.)

Owners of the Space Needle, the Family of builder Howard S. Wright, held a 50th Anniversary celebration for the Space Needle on 04/21/2012.

The roof of the Space Needle returned to its original Galaxy Gold color c. 2020.


In 1981-1982, the Space Needle underwent renovations and remodeling. Construction at the tower's 100-foot level concluded in 07/1982. This level included creation of a cafe open during summertime, and banquet facilities to be used in colder weather. Two restaurants were finished at the top of the tower; one, the Space Needle Restaurant, served mid-priced fare and could serve 200. The "Top of the Needle," was a gourmet restaurant that had its own cocktail lounge. John Graham and Company did these renovations working with the Howard S. Wright Construction Company. (See "April Anniversary," Arcade, vol II, no. 1, 04-05/1982, p. 1, 6.)

Callison Architects supervised a $20 million renovation and alteration project done c. 2000 for client, Wright Hotels, Incorporated. McCarthy Building Companies, Incorporated, served as the Building Contractor for the renovation. Callison Architecture, Incorporated, designed the Pavilion, a glazed, two-story building at the foot of the Space Needle. The Pavilion was designed to wrap around the base in a spiral form. All New Glass, Incorporated, of Auburn, WA, and Evergreen House, Incorporated, of Kirkland, WA, were the glazing contractors that installed PPG Solarban 60 Solar Control low-e glass.

Demolition Notes

The original ticketing, retail and lobby areas at the base of the Space Needle were torn down c. 1999 to erect the Pavilion.

Seattle Historic Landmark (1999-04-19): ID n/a

PCAD id: 4565