The Future of Seattle… According to 1962

Last Friday the Seattle Times posted their entire 1962 World’s Fair souvenir edition paper in pdf format. I had some time this weekend to look through it, and there are quite a few amusing and interesting real-estate-related gems to be found in this 50-year time capsule…

On Realtor marketing tactics, page 4 (4-C):

Realtor’s Gift Ties Boost World’s Fair
One of the more original boosters of the fair is R.C. Schiefelbein, Edmonds Realtor, who took 20 dozen neckties to a Chicago real-estate convention.

Each necktie had a picture of the Space Needle and underneath, “Ask a Realtor.”

City of TomorrowPretty sure if you tried a stunt like that today, the Space Needle corporation would sue you for trademark infringement.

An ad on page 14 (14-C) declares:

Conventional bank loans—Up to 75% appraisal and up to 25 years.

Interesting that 50 years ago borrowers using conventional financing had to bring 25% down and could only get a 25-year mortgage. I wonder how many of today’s home buyers could afford to buy a home around Seattle under those terms.

On architecture, page 58 (10-E):

“I hope that urban housing problems can be better solved by more ingenious planning such as row houses, court plans, and the like rather than the conventional street pattern of individual lots,” Bumgardner said.

Imaginative design can provide imaginative individuality in such scenes he said.

I wish. Instead of imaginative design, we got row after row of ugly townhomes.

On swimming pools, page 67 (E-19):

There is one thing on which all executives of companies that make swimming pools agree, and that is that home-owners of the future will insist on having at least one pool included with the facilities of their home.

Real-estate salesmen showing a prospective customer through a home will point out the fact that it has two pools, much as today they remark on two baths.

“At present,” William M. Smith of Pacific Pools said, “there are less than 10,000 private swimming pools in Greater Seattle. At the rate they are increasing I predict we will have 30,000 in about ten years.

These extras that we consider luxuries will be quite common in the 21st Century and will cost very little.

I don’t recall my real estate agent pointing out two pools in a home even once while I was home-shopping. I got ripped off.

On Lake Hills, page 98 (2-H):

Lake Hills, a community that began only six years ago on hilltops between Bellevue and Lake Sammamish, is the kind of community that pessimists had described as impossible to accomplish.

Larger than any other planned Seattle-area community, it typifies the foresight of many builders and developers.

R. H. Conners, the developer, bought 1,200 acres in 1945. He has added 300 acres since. George Belle has constructed most of the 4,000 homes. Bell expects to build 12,000 more homes over the next ten years.

The prices range from $15,000 to $45,000.

$45,000 in 1962 is roughly equivalent to $342,000 in 2012 dollars. I bet there are a few people who wish they could buy one of the nicest homes in Lake Hills for $342,000.

Hit the jump for a few more gems that I found amusing but don’t particularly relate to real estate.

On sports arenas, page 12 (12-C):

Construction of the Washington State Coliseum — the first new major structure for the World’s Fair — was under way.

…the Coliseum — spreading out over almost four acres like a massive metal “big top” — has become one of the top architectural attractions on the fairgrounds.

“Paul’s Paraboloid,” sports fans call it in fond jest, as they wait impatiently for the day when it will be theirs.

For those who aren’t aware, the Coliseum was the original name for the Key Arena.

On public transit, page 20 (20-C):

The Seattle World’s Fair has a magic carpet.

The name is Monorail.

Zooming along at ta mile-a-minute speed, two Monorail trains will whisk passengers from downtown Seattle to the fairgrounds and return.

Fair officials are predicting the Monorail will be the exposition’s “main gate,” carrying perhaps 40 per cent of the paying customers.

This is the world’s first full-scale rapid-transit system — both an attraction for the fair and perhaps a preview of the transportation of the future.

Sixten Holmquist, Alweg’s president, is optimistic about the Monorail’s future as a rapid-transit system.

“This is the spark that could touch off a revolution in transportation,” Holmquist said.

Fifty years later, every major metropolitan city relies on Monorails to whisk commuters from their homes to work and return. Er, wait a minute…

On local transportation infrastructure, page 132 (J-3):

…the King-Pierce-Snohomish-Kitsap area…must be prepared to accommodate 3,000,000 residents by 1990, if not sooner.

Transportation will be one problem. An air-view of the Seattle area shows how the freeway now being built will provide a further linking of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett and how the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge will double the development opportunities east of Lake Washington.

These facilities, however, will fall far short of meeting all needs of the 3,000,000 persons who must have opportunities to move from home to work and to recreation areas.

The freeway they’re talking about is I-5. Aside from the construction of a second I-90 span across Lake Washington, very little major transportation infrastructure seems to have been built since this was written fifty years ago. With approximately 3.7 million people living in the four-county region as of 2011, I think most would agree with the assessment that our existing transportation options do indeed “fall far short of meeting all needs.” Whoops!

About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.


  1. 1
    toad37 says:

    Fun post, thanks. Had to chuckle at the Lake Hills part..

  2. 2
    Marc says:

    “I don’t recall my real estate agent pointing out two pools in a home even once while I was home-shopping. I got ripped off.”

    Guilty. As I recall, we only saw two houses with “pools.” The very first one with that weird open-well death trap and then a sweet REO with a basement completely full of water.

  3. 3

    The fact that other cities didn’t develop monorails didn’t keep the voters of Seattle from deciding to spend (waste) money on an expanded system.

  4. 4
    The Tim says:

    RE: Marc @ 2 – Hah! That should have been in the listing remarks. “Low-maintenance pool in basement. May be unpermitted.”

    Photo, for those who would like to be in on the joke:

  5. 5

    A house with two pools would be valued at $50,000 less.

  6. 6
    Dweezil says:

    RE: The Tim @ 4
    From the looks of that dangling extension cord, it must be a heated pool! Fancy!

  7. 7
    Marc says:

    RE: The Tim @ 4 – Can’t believe you passed on that Gem! Just look at that sturdy, pre-war construction. A house built today wouldn’t last a month with 10,000 gallons of water in the basement.

  8. 8

    By Dweezil @ 6:

    RE: The Tim @ 4
    From the looks of that dangling extension cord, it must be a heated pool! Fancy!

    My guess would be it’s a cord to the non-functioning sump pump.

  9. 9
    ChrisM says:

    Over the weekend I heard an amusing tale of a bank-owned property in Hillsboro, Oregon. The agent toured it, then toured again about a month later. During that time, the basement got refinished, but w/ no explanation. After speaking w/ the neighbor, turns out the house basically serves as a creek during heavy rainfall, and the creek is supposed to flow through the *unfinished* basement of the house.

    Agent contacts the bank, who blows him off. No disclosures, as is, end of story.

  10. 10
    ray pepper says:

    looks like a large dead fish….orange one..maybe its alive still? ..sting ray type…fishing in your own basement could be a GREAT marketing tool!

  11. 11
    ChefJoe says:

    “Fair officials are predicting the Monorail will be the exposition’s “main gate,” carrying perhaps 40 per cent of the paying customers.”

    I’m curious if the monorail actually came close to bringing that many people through the gates of the expo or if this really is the first documented occurrence of transit planners vastly over inflating the significance of Seattle monorail infrastructure.

  12. 12
    Feedback says:

    Wow! I can’t believe that Realtors were this stupid 50 years ago. If only we had a Tim back then to tell us the truth!

    Thank you, Tim, for this article. I learned a lot from it, such as that the Key Arena was formerly called the “Coliseum.” (What a grandiose name!)

  13. 13

    RE: ChefJoe @ 11 – I doubt 40% came in through the Monorail, but I bet a larger percentage rode the Monorail. It was probably grossly undersized, and that was likely what limited the number of riders. It was an attraction, like the Space Needle and the Bubbleator.

  14. 14

    By Feedback @ 12:

    Thank you, Tim, for this article. I learned a lot from it, such as that the Key Arena was formerly called the “Coliseum.” (What a grandiose name!)

    It was then remodeled for the Sonics in about 1994, and obsolete less than 10 years later. Which makes me very surprised that there are any private investors willing to build the NBA a new stadium.

  15. 15

    Ahhhhh….the days of My Father’s Generation

    When America was inventing things right and left:

    Plasma TVs
    Space Shuttle
    Ultra Sound

    etc, etc….

    Now, the best we can do in radical new inventiveness the last 4 decades is reverse engineer those old 50 yr old American inventions for foreign manufature/outsourcing and miniaturization [which breaks easier too BTW]…

    Where’s my 1962 Flying Car they promised by the year 2000? I’d love to see obsolete internal combustion engines replaced with viable flying alcohol powered jet engines with GPS computer control 4-5 passenger affordable vehicles [they fly themselves without a pilot]. The 1962 Fair promised an American 3 day work week by now, with the same pay too, that was eliminated with cheap labor insourcing/outsourcing too.

  16. 16

    By softwarengineer @ 15:

    The 1962 Fair promised an American 3 day work week by now, with the same pay too, . . ..

    No, they got that one right. With a part time job you now make much more than back in 1962. Just don’t factor in inflation! ;-)

  17. 17
    Tom says:

    Housing prices inflate with incomes, not with consumer goods. GDP per capita can serve as a rough proxy for income, at least until 1990. After that point, GDP per capita grew 30%.

    Inflating $45,000 using GDP per capita rather than CPI yields about $700,000 today. Divide by 1.3 to adjust for the stagnation of household incomes after 1990, and you get about $540,000.

    You certainly can’t buy the nicest house in Lake Hills for $540,000. But you can buy a pretty nice house in Lake Hills for $700,000.

    (Recall that the rule of thumb for mortgages is 3x annual income. It’s not 100x the cost of a television, or 25x the price of a car, or any other bundle of consumer goods. Over the long-term, people buy as much house as they can afford, and prices follow.)

  18. 18
    John Bailo says:

    Looking at that picture of downtown with it’s “vertical sprawl” and highway (or “parkway” as they might have called it back then) with 10 cars on it…one has to ask…what were they thinking?!

    Was anyone supposed to be inside those towers?

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