Seattle 1962
Local historian Feliks Banel says 1962 was a banner year for Seattle because the World's Fair put our little corner of the world on the map. (AP file photo)

What were Seattle's worst and best years ever?

It's the time of year to review what worked and what didn't in the last 12 months.

Local historian Feliks Banel took it a step further and examined Seattle's complete history to find out which years were the best and worst.

He tells 97.3 KIRO FM's Seattle's Morning News the best was 1962 when Seattle hosted the World's Fair. About 10 million people from across the globe visited our corner of the Northwest to ride the new monorail and zip up to the top of the Space Needle.

"It wasn't the fact that they had this great six month carnival with these great artists from all around the world, but it created this incredible legacy," said Banel.

Whether or not you agree with the Seattle Center's new direction, Banel said it's interesting to observe the changes that have happened on campus. It once hosted the NBA and carnival rides and will now feature Dale Chihuly's world class artwork.

"If you go around the lower levels of the Center House...that building was built in 1939 as the armory. There are still very dowdy parts of that building. It epitomizes what Seattle was like."

As for the worst year in our local history, Banel said 1999 was horrible for Seattle's image.

The WTO riots were seen on TV around the world and Banel said that's when people forgot about the Space Needle while watching images of Starbucks windows being smashed in and police in riot gear at every intersection.

"Ten days after that, Ahmed Ressam is arrested in Port Angeles. Everyone thinks he's coming to bomb Seattle on the eve of the millennium."

Consequently, the big New Year's celebration below the Space Needle was canceled out of fear of terrorism.The bad vibes didn't end there.

Banel recalled around the same time, SPEEA members decided to go on strike for the first time in Boeing's history.

In terms of unemployment, another catastrophic year was 1971, when Boeing employment numbers dropped from about 110,000 to 40,000 over the cancellation of the SST, America's answer to the Concorde.

As for the future, Banel said there was no hope when the Seattle City Council decided not to pursue an Olympic bid in 1998.

"In some ways, that's when Seattle's future ended, if you want to get really bleak."

However, he said things look promising again with all of the recent transportation projects: The viaduct, 520 bridge, etc. For Banel, the ingredients for a successful year in Seattle involve civic projects we citizens are proud to support.


MyNorthwest.com, Staff report
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