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Why the view from the Space Needle is 500 feet up from Seattle streets

The Space Needle developers wanted the best location to showcase the Puget Sound region to visitors of the World's Fair in 1962.

SEATTLE — As the Space Needle has evolved over the past 60 years since its inception, so have the views from the top of an ever-changing city that's now become one of the tech capitals of the world.

In fact, the views were a critical element in the original plans for the Space Needle during the World's Fair in 1962.

"They wanted to show off the Seattle setting somehow," said Knute Berger, author of "Space Needle: The Spirit of Seattle."

Berger said developers wanted to showcase the beautiful Puget Sound region too. But the area where Seattle Center sits today wasn't exactly glamourous. 

"Some people considered it a slum before they knocked down some of the buildings and houses," said Berger. "They got the idea to build some kind of a tower and really showcase the view. And that's more or less how they came up with a Space Needle."

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The main Loupe, where tourists flock to enjoy the views, is at the 500-foot level, which is an elevation that was no accident. Berger pointed out that early on in the project, one investor borrowed a helicopter from Boeing to fly above the area and find the perfect height for a tower. 

"They went up to 1,000 feet. And then they came down in stages, looking at the view," he said. "If you go way higher than that, everything looks so small, but from 500 to 600 feet, it's almost like the city is like an architect's model."

Since 1962, an estimated 60 million people have visited the Space Needle to enjoy the views and take in the history. It's a view that's changed immensely in Seattle over the years. But to those who visit, it's still just as magical.

Then and now: Views from the Space Needle

Use the sliders below to see how the view has changed from the top of the Space Needle between 1962 when it was unveiled to the public and now on its 60th anniversary.

To see the change, tap and drag the white box with arrows in the middle of each frame.

View to the east

View to the south

View to the west

View to the northwest

View to the north


WATCH: KING 5’s Celebrating the Space Needle's 60th Anniversary playlist on YouTube