Apr 3, 2024 - News

This week in Seattle history: Space Needle shenanigans

The Space Needle is shown in the foreground against the backdrop of Seattle and the waterfront.

The Space Needle is still standing, despite reports of its collapse in 1989. Photo: Michael Ho Wai Lee/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

From an April Fools' Day prank that went a little too far to the (real) original Starbucks, springtime is a trove of Seattle history.

Here's a look back, sourced from state history encyclopedia HistoryLink and local newspaper and TV news archives.

April 1, 1989: For April Fools' Day, KING 5 sketch comedy show "Almost Live" "reported" that the Space Needle had collapsed. It was a joke, but many viewers took it seriously.

  • Calls from concerned citizens flooded the Space Needle, the Seattle Police Department and KING 5's phone lines.
  • "A lot of people wanted us fired," the comedy show's host John Keister recalled during a KING 5 appearance on the prank's 20th anniversary.
  • In 1999, "Almost Live" ended its run of hyperlocal comedy sketches, including classics like "The Ballard Driving Academy," "Seattle Drivers in Snow" and "Pike or Pine."
  • But the show lives on in every Seattleite's confusion over whether that one really good Thai place is on Pike or Pine — and on Aug. 31, the show will be memorialized in an exhibit at the Museum of History and Industry.

April 2, 1900: In his push for the Democratic presidential nomination, "The Boy Orator of the Platte" William Jennings Bryan arrived in Seattle, where he railed against imperialism and the gold standard.

  • "As he stepped from the train he came face to face with a crowd conservatively estimated at between 10,000 and 12,000," the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported from the scene.
  • Bryan's message appealed to some, but he lost the presidency to William McKinley (and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt).

March 30, 1971: The first Starbucks in Seattle opened, but it didn't sell espresso — just beans — with free coffee by the cup to attract customers.

  • Visitors often mistake the Pike Place Starbucks for the original, but the bean-slinging actually began at 2000 Western Avenue, in a building that no longer exists.
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