As anyone who lives with me for any length of time quickly finds out, I will never get tired of listening to Counting Crows. Through Adam Duritz's raspy voice and soulful lyrics, I have been to a hundred places that I will likely never set foot in. From Baltimore in a rainstorm, to the desert oasis delightfully named Pioneertown, to many sleepless nights in Los Angeles, Duritz's lyrics evoke a strong sense of place and time that never fails to captivate me.
I have found that same sense of captivation these past few weeks in the city of Seattle.
Just north of downtown and east of the harbor, one stumbles across a discordant area of outdated amusement park rides, a monorail station, several large arenas and theatres, a rather lackluster food court inside the Center House (complete with a tacky mural full of smiling colourful people), and an enormous collection of gift shops and food vendors. Standing proud (and hundreds of feet shorter than the nearby downtown skyscrapers) within this jumble is Seattle's landmark, The Space Needle. Signs everywhere proclaim this area as the Seattle Center, but never once do they explain why it is here.
In 1962, Seattle hosted the World's Fair. The Space Needle was built as the icon for the city and fairgoers would pay the equivalent of a day's wages to take the elevator to the top. Predicting the need for increased public transit between the fairgrounds and the downtown hotels, the monorail was built to ferry visitors between the two. As one enters the Center House, now faded and peeling, you can almost imagine the seats filled with families, the paint fresh and vibrant. The Seattle Center is a living remnant of a more dynamic period in the city's history, a time of pride and excitement in progress and human potential.
While walking through the Seattle Center, I am nearly overwhelmed by a sense of time and place; the history of the location dominates over the present structure. It is easy to look past the outdated facade and feel the energy of 1962.
The 1962 Seattle World's Fair has the regrettable legacy of being known as one of the least impressive and profitable of the world's fairs held in the 1950's and 1960's. While parts of the site crumble, parts have been taken over by new attractions such as the Experience Music Project. The lease on the Fun Forest, the amusement park, ends in 2009 and the park is slated for dismantlement and redevelopment. It appears that the sense of place will soon be gone, changed into something different; however, it will likely be a long time before the Seattle Center loses it's place in the memories of those who love it.