Seattle World's Fair opened 62 years ago: A look back at the landmark anniversary

Boulevard of the World's seen at the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle, Wash. (Museum of History & Industry Seattle)

April 21 marked the 62nd anniversary of the opening of the Century 21 Exposition, known colloquially as the Seattle World's Fair, a momentous event that left an indelible mark on the Emerald City's landscape and cultural identity.

Nearly 10 million visitors flocked to the fairgrounds from April 21 to October 21, 1962, to marvel at the wonders of the future showcased at the exposition. 

Designed to celebrate Seattle's economic and cultural vitality, the fair's legacy shaped the city's skyline and cultural fabric as it is today. Keep reading to learn more. 

Space Needle

At the heart of the fairgrounds stood the iconic Space Needle, designed by architect John Graham. 

Rising 605 feet into the sky, with its main observation deck at 520 feet, the Space Needle quickly became a symbol of Seattle's spirit of innovation. 

Constructed in less than a year for $4.5 million, the Space Needle hosted 2.3 million visitors during the fair and still remains one of the city's most beloved tourist attractions.

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Boulevard of the World's seen at the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle, Wash. (Museum of History & Industry Seattle)

Seattle Center

The fairgrounds, now known as Seattle Center, buzzed with activity during the exposition. The Boulevards of the World area, in particular, captivated visitors with its vibrant displays of international culture. 

Restaurants, shops and kiosks adorned with goods and gifts from around the globe lined the colorful thoroughfares, offering a tantalizing glimpse into the diverse tapestry of the world.

A tragic event occurred on opening day at the World's Fair

The opening day of the fair was not without tragedy. 

Amidst the festivities, an Air Force F102 airplane, part of a squadron performing at the opening day ceremonies, crashed into two homes in a Mountlake Terrace neighborhood, according to HistoryLink. Despite this somber event, the fair persevered, leaving a lasting impact on Seattle and its residents.

Celebrities visited Seattle's World Fair

President John F. Kennedy, from his Easter holiday in Florida, pressed a telegraph key to inaugurate the fair, underscoring its significance on the national stage. However, Elvis Presley visited Seattle in September 1962 to make his 11th motion picture, "Take Me To The Fair," at the Century 21 fairgrounds. 

Colonel Tom Parker accompanied Presley along with a staff of nine young men in black jumpsuits. Here, Elvis signs autographs with Governor Albert Rosell. 

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Elvis Presley visited Seattle in Sept. 1962 to make his 11th motion picture, "Take Me To The Fair," at the Century 21 fairgrounds. Here, Elvis signs autographs with Governor Albert Rosellini. (Museum of History & Industry Seattle)

As Seattle commemorates the 62nd anniversary of the Seattle World's Fair, residents and visitors alike are reminded of the city's rich history and enduring spirit of innovation. From the towering heights of the Space Needle to the vibrant cultural mosaic of Seattle Center, the legacy of the Century 21 Exposition continues to shape the fabric of the Emerald City.

Learn more about Seattle's rich history

For more information on the history of Seattle, visitors can explore the exhibits at MOHAI, where artifacts and archival materials offer a fascinating glimpse into Seattle's past.


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