See 2,400 Historic Photos of the Space Needle Under Construction

Architecture Preservation West
(Courtesy of The Seattle Public Library - spl gg 017)

(Courtesy of The Seattle Public Library – spl gg 017)

Last week, we highlighted historic mid-century modern architecture photographs digitized by the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. And now farther north on the west coast is another new archive find. The Seattle Public Library Special Collections—located on the top floor (nope, not relegated to a dusty basement as is often the case) of the OMA / Rem Koolhaas and LMN-designed Central Library in downtown Seattle—just digitized over 2,400 historic Space Needle construction photographs (and a daily construction log, too).

Local Seattleite professional photographer George Gulacsik captured the construction details of the famous 605 foot tall Seattle landmark that took less than a year to build: there are photos of the cement pouring preparation, the painting, the fin raising, the visitors, onlookers, and more. Gulacsik took the photos between April 1961 and October 1962. There is even a photo of former President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade taken from above, as Kennedy made his way through Seattle to give a speech at the University of Washington in November 1961.

(Courtesy of The Seattle Public Library - spl gg 76560001)

(Courtesy of The Seattle Public Library – spl gg 76560001)

Many Gulacsik images were used as marketing in a 1962 promotional publication, “Space Needle USA.” Gulacsik’s wife donated his photos in 2010 after he passed away. The collection is named after him.

The Space Needle is said to be inspired by the Stuttgart TV Tower in Germany. The design is typically credited to architecture firm John Graham and Company, Victor Steinbrueck, and John Ridley, who worked with businessman Edward E. Carlson and his napkin sketch concept.

(Courtesy of The Seattle Public Library - spl gg 69750021)

(Courtesy of The Seattle Public Library – spl gg 69750021)

“Graham was excited by the challenge, and assembled a large team of associates including Art Edwards, Manson Bennett, Erle Duff, Al Miller, Nate Wilkinson, Victor Steinbrueck, and John Ridley,” explains History Linkthe online nonprofit Washington State history encyclopedia. “In working to translate Carlson’s doodle into blueprints, they explored a variety of ideas ranging from a single saucer-capped spire to a structure resembling a tethered balloon. Steinbrueck hit on a wasp-waisted tripod for the Space Needle’s legs and Ridley perfected the double-decked “top house” crown.”

George Gulacsik. (Courtesy of The Seattle Public Library - spl gg 72320009)

George Gulacsik. (Courtesy of The Seattle Public Library – spl gg 72320009)

Now we can view the collection from our armchairs, couches, and desks.

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