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Did You Know?

As Seattle contemplated hosting a World’s Fair, Fair organizers created a plan to leave the World’s Fair site to the people of Seattle. In 1956, they successfully appealed to voters to pass a bond to fund a civic center and then worked with the City to appoint a committee to look at whether such a center could serve as a catalyst for hosting the fair. While the Seattle World’s Fair, also known as the Century 21 Exposition, opened in April 1962; the year before, on Feb. 28, 1961, the Fair site was named Seattle Center.  

The organizers envisioned a post-Fair place for civic and cultural activities. We wonder, however, if they ever dreamed that 60 years later it would thrive as a home for world class performing and visual arts, community gatherings of all sorts (non-COVID times), beloved family destinations, the Space Needle (second globally only to the Eiffel Tower as a world’s fair souvenir turned tourist attraction), and soon, when Climate Pledge Arena opens, the first net carbon sports arena in the world.  

Seattle Center is one of the only former world fair sites that remains as a public gathering place. While World’s Fair relics like the Unisphere in New York City or Biosphere in Montreal, Quebec still exist, in Seattle, the entire 74-acre fairgrounds remains intact– and many of the former Fair facilities, including the Arena and Seattle Center Monorail, are still in use.    

Robert Rydell, a history professor at Montana State University, said this of some fair organizers (from “World’s Fairs and Their Legacies,” NYT, 5/1/15). “They don’t think through the whole legacy question. Modern fairs do a lot of planning on the opening but not a lot on the back end.” 

But in Seattle, organizers conceived of the fair as an engine for urban renewal, not an end in itself. An indication of how well the 1962 fair site was incorporated into the modern city is that many people don’t realize a fair was held here, but they still visit for what delights and inspires! 

#didyouknow #seattlecenter #centerspotlight #worldsfair

About Seattle Center: 

Connect to the extraordinary at Seattle Center, an active civic, arts and family gathering place in the core of our region. More than 30 cultural, educational, sports and entertainment organizations that reside on the grounds, together with a broad range of public and community programs, create thousands of events on the 74-acre campus and attract over 12 million visitors each year. At Seattle Center, part of Uptown Arts & Cultural District, our purpose is to create exceptional events, experiences and environments that delight and inspire the human spirit to build stronger communities. Activities at the Center generate $1.864 billion in business activity and $631 million in labor income.