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How Was the Space Needle Built?

by Nancy Bruton | Feb 13, 2018

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The Space Needle is an iconic visual of the Emerald City. Towering over Seattle at 605 feet, it quickly became an iconic city landmark when it was erected in 1962. Have you ever wondered how something so towering and unique was made, or why? There are quite a few interesting facts, past and present, surrounding the construction of the Space Needle.

A Brief History of the Space Needle

The concept of the Space Needle originated in 1959. Artist and then-president ofCoast Crane Company has all the cranes you need for your construction jobs, rentals, sales and service. Western International Hotels Edward E. Carlson quickly sketched the first design for what was to become the Space Needle on a napkin in a coffee house. Carlson intended to build a futuristic-looking structure for the 1962 World’s Fair. Carlson envisioned the design being the central image for the fair, taking the appearance of a flying saucer.

Construction finally began in 1961 after overcoming some logistical issues finalizing the design and finding a usable plot within the fairgrounds. The construction team, Pentagram Corporation, had roughly 13 months to build the Space Needle before the fair began. The team ended up using a 120-foot-by-120-foot plot that was purchased for $75,000. Construction began with digging a hole for the foundation 30 feet deep and 120 feet wide – they used 467 cement trucks to pour the foundation!

The foundation, which weighs 5,850 tons, had to be sturdy with a strong center of gravity so the tower could withstand the frequent earthquakes felt in the Puget Sound area, in addition to weathering 200 mph winds – that’s double what the building code called for in 1962. All told, the foundation weighs just as much as the tower itself! For added structural strength, the base was bolted to the foundation using 72 bolts; each bolt is 30 feet long.

Due to the time constraint of just 13 months, construction was constantly in motion. The tower was finally completed in December 1961. The Seattle World’s Fair was held on April 21, 1962, making it the official opening for the Space Needle. At its grand opening, almost 20,000 people per day rode the elevators to the rotating, domed summit. Over the course of the fair, 2.3 million people visited the Space Needle.

Add-Ons and Renovations

The Space Needle underwent a $20 million renovation in 2000, which consisted of add-ons such as the Pavilion, SpaceBase retail store, an observation deck overhaul A close up look at the space needle and how it's built. Coast Crane Company has equipment of all types for you to buy or rent. and additional exterior lighting and painting. The Needle also eventually replaced its original .8-kilowatt restaurant-rotating motor with a 1.1-kilowatt motor.

In 1993, the original elevators were replaced with much more powerful, computerized elevators. The current elevators can support up to 14,000 pounds each and carry 25 people. Each elevator has a counterweight – like the counterweights used for crane balancing – that weighs 40 percent more than the elevator when it’s at capacity.

The most recent renovation is ongoing. It was announced in mid-2017 that the Space Needle would undergo a $100 million, multi-year renovation, dubbed the Century Project. The renovation’s primary goal is to implement floor-to-ceiling glass into the tower’s five stories to thoroughly enhance the view from the top. The Century Project is scheduled to finish in 2018.

Have a Construction Job of Your Own?

Not all construction jobs require 467 cement trucks and millions of dollars in renovation costs. But what they all need is quality equipment. That’s where Coast Crane Company comes in.

As one of the nation’s leading crane dealers, Coast Crane has what you need, including quality crane service, rentals, sales and repairs. Contact Coast Crane Company for a quote by calling 800-400-2726 or by visiting us online today!

The Seattle Space Needle, fun facts