Every city has its own unique culture and history. Last time we ranked San Francisco’s skyline and bridges. This time, we go north to Seattle — home to popular figures like Bill Gates and Jimi Hendrix, the grunge movement, and the world’s best coffee.
Here is the history behind four of Seattle’s most famous landmarks — from pop culture to libraries to a giant Space Needle.
1. The Space Needle
• The design for the Space Needle started as a doodle on a hotel napkin. Edward E. Carlson, who was a chief organizer of the 1962 World’s Fair, got the idea from a broadcast tower in Stuttgart, Germany. Carlson wanted the Space Needle to be the centerpiece of the fair, while also being an iconic symbol for Seattle.
• The privately financed tower was managed by the Howard S. Wright Construction Company. It took 467 cement trucks to fill an underground foundation that was 30 feet deep and 120 feet wide. The foundation weights as much as the Space Needle itself, and was the largest continuous concrete pour ever attempted in the West.
• In 1963, the community fought to preserve the market. On November 2, 1971, an initiative was passed to turn the area into a historic preservation zone. The Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority was created to run the market.
2. Pike Place Market
• At the turn of the century, Seattle’s population nearly doubled. In 1906-1907, citizens were outraged at the price gouging of produce. To find a solution, Seattle City Councilman Thomas Revelle created a public market where farmers could sell goods directly to citizens instead of going through wholesalers.
• Pike Place Market officially opened on August 17, 1907. Within a week, the market had over 70 wagons selling their goods daily. The Main Arcade, the first building at Pike Market, opened a few months later.
• In 1963, the community fought to preserve the market. Finally, on November 2, 1971, an initiative was passed to turn the area into a historic preservation zone. The city created the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority to run the market.
3. Museum of Pop Culture
• Formerly known as the EMP Museum, the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) was designed by architect Frank O. Gehry. He wanted to evoke a rock ‘n’ roll experience, so he sliced up some electric guitars and used them to build an early model.
• To create the metal building, Frank O. Gehry was the first architect to use Dassault Systèmes’ CATIA. It was invented to design fighter jets, but it can also digitize a sculptural form into a 3-D electronic model that can be used for building.
• The exterior is made of up 3,000 panels, which are made up of 21,000 individually cut and shaped stainless steel and painted aluminum shingles. The individual finishes respond to different light conditions and change color based on the viewing angle, which reminds “audiences that music and culture is constantly evolving.”
4. Suzzallo Library
• The Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington was designed by architects Charles H. Bebb and Carl F. Gould in the Collegiate Gothic style. The library was named after former university president, Henry Suzzallo.
• The famous Suzzallo Reading Room is 65 feet high, 52 feet wide, and 250 feet long. The oak bookcases are topped with hand-carved friezes of Washington’s native plants. An article by The Pacific Builder and Engineer in 1927 claimed: “This room has been pronounced by experts to be the most beautiful on the continent and is ranked among the most beautiful in the world.”
• The exterior of the library is made of sandstone, precast stone, terra-cotta, and brick. In 1923, the University of Washington faculty picked 18 terra-cotta figures for the exterior that symbolize contributions to learning and culture, including Shakespeare, Plato, and Leonardo da Vinci, to name a few.