I'm up in Seattle today to give the opening keynote at the 2009 Society for Information Management SIMPosium. While preparing, I came across a wonderful back-of-the-napkin story. It turns out that Seattle's most famous landmark, the Space Needle, owes it's origin to a simple sketch drawn by a one-time gas station attendant, seaman, and hat salesman named Edward Carlson.
By 1955, Edward, a Tacoma native and classic "self-made man", had become a successful hotel manager in Seattle. To boost civic pride, he undertook a feasibility study to determine whether Seattle could possibly become the venue for the 1962 World's Fair. While thinking through many ideas, he one day pulled out a napkin and sketched a tall tower capped by a rotating restaurant.
He thought it would make a great centerpiece for the Fair. The state legislature agreed.
Architect John Graham Jr. used Edwards's initial sketch as the conceptual basis for the design that became America's tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. To this day the Space Needle remains one of the greatest examples of "rocket-age" architecture. The tower welcomed its 45 millionth visitor in May, 2007.
And whatever happened to Edward, the guy who drew the first sketch on that napkin?
He became CEO of Westin Hotels Inc. Which is where I happen to be staying. I feel like I'm in good company.