Boom & Bust 1945-1970

Seattle WA

History of Seattle/Boom & Bust 1945-1970
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Written By VAMONDE Seattle

Boom & Bust 1945-1970

After the war ended, the military canceled its bomber orders; Boeing factories shut down and 70,000 people lost their jobs. Though this period of stagnation mirrored the shipping boom and bust, the rise of the jet aircraft and Boeing's reincarnation as the world's leading producer of commercial passenger planes helped Seattle grow. During this period, Seattle attempted to counter the decline of its downtown and the area immediately to the north by hosting the Century 21 Exposition and the 1962 World's Fair. The fair, given a futuristic science theme, was designed to leave behind a civic center, now known as Seattle Center, including arts buildings, the Pacific Science Center and the Space Needle, and serving also as a fairground. In addition, freeways were built to compensate for all this new growth for people to commute. In conjunction with the fair, a demonstration monorail line was constructed at no cost to the city and was paid for out of ticket sales, and then turned over to the city where it serves as a tourist attraction. The World's Fair arguably reenergized the downtown of Seattle and was generally considered a smashing success, even finishing with a profit. Starting in the late 1950s, Seattle was one of the centers of the emergence of the American counter-culture and culture of protest.

Boeing Bust

Due to the simultaneous decline in Vietnam War military spending, the slowing of the space program as Project Apollo neared completion, the recession of 1969-1970 and Boeing's $2 billion in debt as it built the 747 airliner, the company and the Seattle area greatly suffered. Boeing laid off tens of thousands of employees. Each unemployed Boeing employee cost at least one other job, and unemployment rose to 14%, the highest in the United States. U-Haul dealerships ran out of trailers because so many people moved out. A billboard appeared near the airport: Will the last person leaving SEATTLE- Turn out the lights After 1973, Seattle was in good company for its recession, since the rest of the country was also experiencing the energy crisis.

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Rehabilitating Urban Spaces

The Pike Place Market, arguably Seattle's most important tourist attraction, gained its modern form in the aftermath of the Boeing crash. A "Keep the Market" initiative led by architect Victor Steinbrueck, passed in 1971. The project was wildly successful in spite of intense opposition by the Seattle Establishment, and today the Pike Place Market pulls in nine million visitors each year. A similar story occurred with Pioneer Square. An old neighborhood, largely built after the Fire of 1889, it had fallen into derelict status after the war. However, with a reenergized downtown, businesses started to look for buildings that could be acquired cheaply, leading to major growth in businesses, boutiques, and galleries. Seattle was definitely recovering from the blow dealt by the Boeing recession, refilling areas that had threatened to become slums.

Cover Image from Seattle Municipal Archives and sourced from Wikipedia (Creative Commons). Information sourced from Wikipedia.

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