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17 sensational observation towers that aren't in Paris

By: Matt Hickman on Aug. 5, 2016, 10:39 a.m.
The Space Needle in Seattle

Photo: Martin Cathrae/flickr

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The Space Needle

Ah, the Space Needle — a study in how quickly impressively tall structures can be dwarfed.

Arguably the most famous observation tower erected for a 20th century world's fair (see also: San Antonio's Tower of the Americas, Knoxville's Sunsphere and the abandoned New York State Pavilion towers in Queens), the unofficial slogan for the deceptively lanky Space Needle should be "incredibly iconic but not really all that tall" considering how thrown off some first-time visitors to Seattle are by the space age landmark's relatively modest height of 605 feet. Visitors who assume that it dominates the Seattle skyline are a little letdown when they discover it's the city's sixth tallest structure.

Once upon a time, however, the Space Needle was breathtakingly tall. When it was completed just ahead of the 1962 World's Fair in a mere 400 days, the Space Needle was the tallest structure not just in Seattle but west of the Mississippi River, a title now held by Los Angeles's U.S. Bank Building.

Even the Space Needle's reign as tallest building in Seattle was relatively short-lived: Safeco Plaza, formerly the Seafirst Bank Tower (a.k.a. "The Box the Space Needle Came In"), stole the title as the Emerald City's tallest structure by just 25-feet when it opened in 1969. Still, the thrilling 41-second ride up to the observation deck is well worth the $21 ticket price — just don't expect any Wheedle sightings.