Seattle was a gas in the 1960s. The Century 21 Exposition, also known as the Seattle World’s Fair, was held in 1962 and drew almost 10 million visitors from around the globe. The space exploration-theme of the fair inspired major construction projects including the Space Needle and Alweg monorail, as well as several sports venues (Washington State Coliseum, now KeyArena), performing arts buildings (the Playhouse, now the Cornish Playhouse), and the Pacific Science Center.

Century 21 aerial view promotional picture, 1961

retro-seattle-1960s-1-compressedPhoto: Seattle Historical Photograph Collection

Smith Tower, originally built in 1914 was the tallest building in Seattle at 489 feet until the Space Needle surpassed it in 1962.

Aerial of south downtown, 1963

retro-seattle-1960s-2Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

The International Fountain was designed by two Tokyo architects. It was originally created with a basin of irregularly shaped rocks to suggest the terrain of unexplored galaxies. The fountain was replaced and expanded in a $6.5 million project in 1995. It is now more hospitable to children at play in the summer.

International Fountain at World’s Fair, 1962

retro-seattle-1960s-3Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

The ultra futuristic Monorail line was developed to ferry tourists from downtown Seattle to the fairgrounds. Construction began in April of 1961 by Alweg Rapid Transit Systems, a German company who received the bid when it offered to underwrite the entire cost of construction. Following the Fair, the Monorail system was turned over to Century 21 Corporation at no cost. Century 21 sold the system to the City of Seattle in 1965 for $600,000.

Passengers on monorail, 1962

retro-seattle-1960s-4-compressedPhoto: Seattle Municipal Archives

As more Seattle residents moved out to the suburbs, Seattle decided to redesign their waterfront to boost the local economy. Three major waterfront businesses, the Edgewater Hotel, Trident Imports, and the Polynesian Restaurant, all opened and new pedestrian walkways and piers were introduced.

Aerial of waterfront and downtown, 1968

retro-seattle-1960s-5Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

Led Zepplin played at the Aqua Theater in 1969 to thousands of screaming fans followed by Grateful Dead later that year. Unfortunately, that was too much enthusiasm for the little stage and in 1970 inspectors deemed the structural damage too severe and dismantled the venue. The traumatized animals at adjacent Woodland Park Zoo were appreciative.

Aqua Theater at Greenlake, 1961

retro-seattle-1960s-6Photo: MOHAI

The Pavilion of Electric Power at the World’s Fair featured a 40-foot dam as its backdrop. The exhibit was built to showcase the hydro-electric potential of the state and to highlight innovation in low-cost electricity.

Pavilion of Electric Power at World’s Fair, 1962

retro-seattle-1960s-7Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

In the 1960s Pan Am offered service to Hawaii from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.

Westlake pedestrian mall, 1965

retro-seattle-1960s-8Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

Fair housing protest, 1964

retro-seattle-1960s-9-compressedPhoto: Seattle Municipal Archives

Seattle’s black population increased dramatically between 1940 and 1960, making the community the city’s largest minority group. Until 1968, it was legal to discriminate in Seattle against minorities when renting or selling real estate. The national Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination in public places and schools, helped finally bring about an open housing ordinance in Seattle in 1968.

Sick’s Stadium, home of the Seattle Rainiers and Seattle Pilots, 1967

retro-seattle-1960s-10Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

On April 11, 1969, the Seattle Pilots Major League baseball team debuted at Sick’s Stadium. It was named after Emil Sick, owner of the team and of the Rainier Brewing Company.

Lake Washington floating bridge, 1963

retro-seattle-1960s-11Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

Washington State has the four longest and heaviest floating bridges in the world, including the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge, pictured above. The bridge opened in 1940 and ferried commuters across Lake Washington for more than 50 years until it sank in a storm on November 25, 1990. The bridge was re-built in 1993.

Fireboat at Todd Shipyard fire, 1964

seattle 1960sPhoto: Seattle Municipal Archives

On October 21, 1964, a fire started on Repair Pier 7 on Harbor Island in Seattle. It took over 300 fire fighters and volunteers more than four hours to put it out.

City Light billboard, 1968

retro-seattle-1960s-12Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

In the 1960’s, City Light built the Boundary Dam in Northeast Washington that now generates over a third of the utility’s power output. City Light remains the largest municipally-owned utility in the Pacific Northwest.

New I-5 from Yesler Way overpass, January 31, 1967

retro-seattle-1960s-13Photo: Werner Lenggenhager Photograph Collection

Interstate 5 was completed from Everett to Tacoma in 1967. It features the only fall-out shelter under a freeway in the United States.

Northeast view from the Space Needle with Lake Union to the right, 1962

retro-seattle-1960s-14Photo: Century 21 Digital Collection

The Space Needle was designed for the Century 21 Exposition by artist was Edward E. Carlson to resemble a flying saucer and celebrate innovation in science and space exploration.

Northeast view from the Space Needle with Lake Union and the new freeway bridge, 1962

retro-seattle-1960s-15Photo: Century 21 Digital Collection

An underground foundation was poured into a hole 30 feet deep and 120 feet across. It took 467 cement trucks an entire day to fill the hole, and was the largest continuous concrete pour ever attempted in the West. Once completed, the foundation weighed as much as the Space Needle itself, establishing the center of gravity just five feet above ground.

Anti-war demonstration, Seattle, 1965

retro-seattle-1960s-16Photo: MOHAI

The Seattle Committee to End the War in Vietnam (SCEWV) and the University of Washington chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) marched to Westlake Park in solidarity with other anti-war protests in other cities. When the march arrived at Westlake Park, counter protestors tried to drown them out by singing the Mickey Mouse Club anthem and dousing a political science professor in red paint.

Gasworks Park site, 1966

retro-seattle-1960s-17Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

An immense source of pollution, Seattle’s gasification plant was closed down in 1956 and converted into a park by landscape architect Richard Haag.

Aerial view of Gas Works Park soon after it opened, 1975

retro-seattle-1960s-18Photo: CBE Visual Resources Collection

The Gas Works Park officially opened in 1975. Today it includes 20.5 acres of land projecting 400 feet into Lake Union with 1,900 feet of shoreline. It’s now a great place to watch fireworks and eat a hearty sandwich.

Far out, Seattle.

Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to the bridge pictured in the Lake Washington postcard as the Evergreen Point Bridge, built in 1963, when it is in fact a photo of the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge taken in 1963. Thanks to our reader for pointing that out in the comments.

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