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Summary for 305 Harrison ST / Parcel ID 1985200550 / Inv # CTR012

Historic Name: Monorail Terminal Common Name:
Style: Modern Neighborhood: Queen Anne
Built By: Year Built: 1962
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
This structure was built in 1961-62 as the northern terminal of the 1.2-mile Monorail system between the Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition and the Westlake Mall in the central business district. One of the greatest concerns of the fair organizers was to provide adequate parking for the thousands of daily visitors. In keeping with the theme of Century 21, the first full-scale public transit Monorail would be constructed as one of the solutions to this expected problem. As a potential model for rapid transit in 21st century urban centers, it would be an experiment to see if modern techniques would make it possible to run an overhead track along a city street without impairment to air space or interruption of automobile traffic and serenity. The organizers also envisioned that the Monorail would be the fair’s biggest attraction. This was before the idea for the Space Needle, the unofficial symbol of the fair, developed in 1959 and became a reality with the start of construction on April 17 1961. As it turned out, the parking problems were less severe than expected, partly due to the fact that a number of landowners in the area decided at the last minute to demolish their old buildings to profit from the lucrative business in surface parking. However, the Monorail was a huge success, carrying more than eight million riders during the six months of the fair. Monorails had been around since 1901 when the Rhineland city of Wuppertal began to operate a ten-mile overhead monorail line. Over the next sixty years, few new Monorail systems were installed except at several amusement parks, most notably Disneyland. The Disneyland Alweg Monorail opened in June 1959 as part of a major expansion of Tomorrowland. In June 1961, the Monorail became a true transportation link instead of just a sightseeing ride. With an extended 2½-mile track, Disneyland Hotel guests could board the Monorail at the hotel and begin their park visit in Tomorrowland. Swedish scientist Dr. Axel Lennart Wenner-Gren had developed the Alweg Monorail System in the early 1950s in Cologne, Germany. The name for the system was derived from the initials of the system’s inventor, Dr. Wenner-Gren. After the fair’s organizers developed the idea for a monorail system, they needed to find someone to build it, which proved to be difficult at first. Boeing and Lockheed were possibilities that failed to materialize. During the proposal stage, the Alweg Company had offered to completely finance the monorail project, which helped them win the bid for construction. For Alweg, the Seattle line would be the ultimate reference project to showcase all the system's advantages in comparison to conventional two-rail lines. Headed by its president Sixten Holmquist, Alweg’s American subsidiary, Wegematic Corporation, began construction in April of 1961. Construction of the monorail generated more publicity abroad than the Space Needle and made it easier to negotiate for foreign representation at the fair. The whole construction period in Seattle took just ten months, and traffic on busy Fifth Avenue, the main artery for the monorail line, was only minimally obstructed during this time. On the fair grounds, a futuristic terminal and an adjacent modern office building were constructed near the southeastern corner from designs by Adrian Wilson & Associates. At the time they were considered temporary exposition buildings. While there were four official entrances to the fair, the Monorail was expected to bring an estimated 80% of the visitors to the fair, making the exposition terminal the "main gate." Two four-car trains would shuttle back and forth on pre-stressed concrete beamways from the central shopping district at the Westlake Mall along tree-lined Fifth Avenue to the fairgrounds in 95 seconds. Pre-stressed concrete T-pylons placed about 85 feet apart supported the beamways, measuring three feet wide and five feet deep, which were fabricated in Tacoma by Concrete Technology Corp. Riding on 64 rubber pneumatic tires, the Monorail would run on 700 volts of Direct Current (DC) power obtained through contact rails on the inside of the beam. On March 24, 1962, the Monorail opened to the public nearly one month before the start of the World's Fair. The high ridership during the six months of the fair meant that the system more than paid for itself. Following the fair, the Monorail system was turned over to the fair’s organizers, Century 21 Expostion, Inc., at no cost, which was a good way to avoid possible demolition costs and at the same time to preserve the line as a demonstration system for future Alweg customers. In 1965, the City purchased the Monorail for $600,000. Despite the success of the Monorail in Seattle, the Alweg Company was not successful in its efforts to provide an alternative to traditional public transit systems and went out of business before any other of their systems could be installed. The Hitachi Company of Japan did acquire patent licenses for the Alweg system in 1960, and today successful monorails based on the original Alweg designs operate full-scale service at various locations in Japan. With its futuristic design, this building is significant for its associations with the only public Monorail system built by the Alweg Company in the world and with the Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition.
Completed in 1962, this one-story steel frame and concrete structure occupies a site near the southeast corner of the Seattle Center. Originally, this terminal building would have been located at the northeast corner of Thomas Street and Nob Hill Avenue North. The terminal is a completely open shed except for an enclosed office located at the northwest corner of the building. A sign indicates that the clock on the outside of the office was the "Original Official Time Piece" from the Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition. The Monorail’s two concrete beamways enter from the east and terminate at the western end of the building between the three concrete platforms. The ticket booths are located at the head of the tracks at the western end of the terminal. A winding ramp along the south elevation provides access to this end of the terminal. A covered skybridge also extends from the Center House to the terminal through an opening in the railing along the west elevation. The exposed steel I-beam frame supports the terminal’s raised concrete platform and curves upward and extends over the platform to bear the corrugated metal roof. Smaller steel I-beam roof trusses overhang the western end of the building. A continuous double arched roof covers the two bays at the western end. The roof over the nine remaining bays has arched skylights centered over the tracks. The skylights rest between the curved outer roofs and the center flat roof, which covers a row of posts down the center platform. The eastern end of the terminal has stairways leading down from the three platforms adjoining the beamways. The northeast corner of the terminal has a large patio on top of a concrete block addition, while the southeast corner has a ramp leading to the office building to the south. Concrete blocks enclose a maintenance area under the platform at the western end of the terminal. Although alterations have been made, this building retains good physical integrity.

Detail for 305 Harrison ST / Parcel ID 1985200550 / Inv # CTR012

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat, Other Roof Material(s): Metal, Other
Building Type: Transportation - Rail-Related Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Steel No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation, Transportation
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Changes to Plan: Slight
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
Architecture/West. An Architect's Guidebook to the Seattle World's Fair, 1962. Seattle, WA: Pacific Builder and Engineer, v. 68, no. 4, April 1962.
Morgan, Murray. Century 21, The Story of the Seattle World's Fair, 1962. Seattle, WA: Acme Press, distributed by University of Washington Press, 1963.
Official Guide Book Seattle Worlds Fair 1962. Seattle, WA: Acme Publications Incorporated, c1962.
The Alweg Archives Website (

Photo collection for 305 Harrison ST / Parcel ID 1985200550 / Inv # CTR012

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000
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