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Galaxy Gold’s Re-entry

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Buildings & Other Structures

Orange you happy the Space Needle is nostalgic?

Fifty years ago this summer the city of Seattle hosted the world at Century 21, a six-month-long World’s Fair focused on science, and technology at the peak of the space race.  When the exposition ended, the city was left with a mix of landmark buildings.  Many still stand in the footprint of the World’s Fair — the Seattle Center, just north of downtown.

A space age saucer set 500 feet above the ground on an elegant curving tripod was the most prominent of all the fair’s structures.  That building remains symbolic of the city to this day.

During most of its existence, the Space Needle was white.  That’s how I knew it as a child.  But it started out quite differently (pictured in 1962, right).  I remember first seeing a photo of the original Needle on the cover of a book published the year after the World’s Fair.  To me, the “orange” top looked unfamiliar.  Okay, it was strange.  I was wrong, though.  It wasn’t orange.  It was galaxy gold.

But I was convinced that that color was strange, too!

All four original colors, lathered on with 1,340 gallons of paint, were given cute names appropriate to a space age Space Needle.  We list those colors below.  They were painted over in 1968, leading to the era of white and gold or all white that I had been familiar with growing up.  Over the years the top house roof has been given temporary hues to celebrate (among other things) UW purple and gold, WSU crimson and gray, and American red, white and blue.  This year, in celebration of the Space Needle’s 50th anniversary, it again sports an orange top (pictured in 2012, left). Um, make that galaxy gold.  You know, it kinda looks okay to me now.

THE ORIGINAL COLORS OF THE SEATTLE SPACE NEEDLE, 1962

Structural component
Color*
The roof and underside of the top house Galaxy Gold
The halo ribs and louvers between the public decks Re-Entry Red
The legs Astronaut White
The central core Orbital Olive

*While the names here are official, the shades are merely approximate.

SOURCE: WA-List files

April 1962 PHOTO by Seattle Municipal Archives
May 2012 PHOTO by Liesl Matthies

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