When the Space Needle was America's Covergirl and a Symbol of Hope

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50 years ago today, in a major coup, a picture of the Space Needle under construction was featured on the cover of Life magazine, complemented by a seven-page, praise-filled article titled: "How to Pull Off a Fair." Jay Rockey (shown below) is the man who made it happen. He sold Seattle and Century 21 to the world, as public relations director for the 1962 World’s Fair.

According to Knute Berger, Seattle mag's editor-at-large and local expert on the Space Needle's history, the tower was an influential symbol well before its construction was complete.

"This was the era when East Berlin was putting up its wall. Here, the Needle embodied the upward lift of looking to a new frontier, but also our expansive world view."

How is Seattle making national news headlines today? Paul Allen wants the city to increase building heights in South Lake Union so his real estate company can accomodate (read: profit from) Seattle's increasing population. Fitting, considering Berger's claim in an earlier essay that it was the drive and power of Seattle's "Mad Men" that made the World's Fair (and its subsequent legacy) happen. Onwards and upwards!

Read more of Berger's insights into what the 1962 World's Fair meant for Seattle then and now in our February issue (on stands now), which is dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Space Needle and the Century 21 exhibition.


Jay Rockey photographed on December 2, 2011 by Hayley Young