It was designed with an eye on the future, but when the Space Needle was introduced as the centerpiece of the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, it was already behind.
Despite the late start, city and business leaders worked together to make sure it would be completed on time.
"They broke ground in April. They dug down 30 feet, and, in May, they did what was the largest continuous concrete pour in the west. They had something like 467 cement trucks in a single day come, just pouring the foundation of the Space Needle."
Above ground presented the biggest challenge. The project called for steel, and lots of it. Ironworkers from around the area threw their hard hats into the ring for the chance to work on this once-in-a-lifetime job.
"Back when they built the Space Needle in ’61, ’62, they had the best of the best. The best ironworkers, the best steelworkers ’cause everyone wanted to work at the Space Needle," said Karen Olson, Chief Marketing Officer for the Space Needle.
Even the precarious height didn't sway the workers from the job.
"They had no nets, no harness. They crawled way out there. They were extraordinarily brave,” Berger said. "The ironworkers did not lose one day, probably not even one hour, to injury."
Four-hundred days after construction began, the tallest structure west of the Mississippi opened for the World’s Fair. Visitors waited hours in line for their chance to get to the top.
"When you got up to the observation deck, you walked out, it was wide open, it was kind of like a crow’s nest. There wasn't any glass, no enclosure, so you really felt like you were out in the open. You felt like you were flying."
Though the Space Needle was a critical and commercial success, the original architects believed if they had more time, they could have made it even better.
"There's no question that the design had to accommodate the time frame. So they did make some compromises as they went along," Berger said.