The 1980s were an exciting — and sometimes horrifying — time in Seattle. Construction of Columbia Center was completed, the Green River Killer was on the loose, the first Costco opened, Ted Bundy was executed, Boeing headquarters relocated, the first pint of Red Hook ale was sold, Bill Gates became the youngest billionaire of all time, three robbers raided the Wah Mee gambling club and killed 13 people, the Tacoma Dome opened, Sir Mix-a-Lot exploded on the scene and fathers grew mustaches.
Whew! Enjoy this visual journey back in time.
Seattle skyline, ca. 1983
The year 1983 was an epic one for the Seattle Seahawks. The team reached the NFL playoffs for the first time, beating Denver in the Kingdome on Christmas Eve to win the Western Conference. Aside from that highlight, Seattle’s professional sports teams had some of their worst years in the 1980s.
Downtown Seattle, 1981
The Seven Seas building is located on 1st Avenue in downtown Seattle, and has played numerous roles over the decades, including hotel, mercantile, tavern, short-term housing and shooting range. Eventually it turned into the famous “Lusty Lady” peep show establishment, which shut down in 2010 after 27 years of service. A boutique hotel targeting “creative class travelers” is set to open in the space in 2017.
Aerial view of downtown Bellevue, 1987
After two bridges were built connecting Bellevue to Seattle in the 1960s, commuters began making the small city home. By the 1980s, many banks had moved their corporate headquarters to Bellevue, making it one of the wealthiest cities in the state. Over the years the Bellevue Square shopping mall has expanded, helping Bellevue become the consumer-friendly metropolis it is today.
West Seattle Bridge under construction, ca. 1983
According to HistoryLink, in 1978, the freighter “Chavez,” piloted by Rolf Neslund, rammed into the original West Seattle bascule bridge and permanently damaged it. After much controversy and debate, a new bridge was built and dedicated in 1984. The six-lane cantilevered concrete structure is more than 150 feet high and cost $150 million to build. The bridge spans Harbor Island and the Duwamish Waterway at the point it enters Elliott Bay.
Aerial view of Magnuson Park, ca. 1981
Photo: Seattle Parks & Recreation
Warren Grant “Maggie” Magnuson represented the state of Washington in the US Senate from 1944 until 1981. When he left the Senate he was the most senior member of the body. Magnuson was a major champion of securing federal funding to transform the naval base on Sand Point into the beautiful public parkland it is today, and fittingly the park is named after him.
According to HistoryLink, “on June 26, 1984, The Seattle Times reports that the teen crowd has shifted its scene east from Carkeek Park in Northwest Seattle to Magnuson Park on Sand Point. Magnuson Park overlooking Lake Washington has become the site of cruising, boozing, and hanging out in the warm summer air, the paper reports.” Where does the teen crowd hang out now?
Demolition for Westlake Center, 1987
After years of controversy and litigation dating back to the 1960s, a plan for Westlake Center was agreed upon and construction began in 1986. The project was built quickly, and according to HistoryLink, work continued up until the morning of the opening ceremony on October 20th, 1988.
Westlake Center, 1988
The Progressive Animal Welfare Society, commonly known as PAWS, filed an action seeking to prevent the release of 50,000 helium-filled balloons at the Westlake Center opening ceremony, arguing they posed a deadly threat to marine life. An attorney for the developers argued the balloons were completely biodegradable and posed no threat. Fifteen minutes before the start of the ceremony, a judge ruled the balloons could fly. On the ground, Husky cheerleaders danced, bands tooted their horns, a 150-voice choir sang, and dignitaries spoke — including Mayor Charles Royer, reports HistoryLink.
The Westin Hotel, 1982
Photo: Seattle Public Library
In 1981, the magnificent Washington Plaza Hotel was renamed the Westin Hotel. According to HistoryLink, a twin tower, the north tower, was completed in 1982. The north tower, which replaced the Benjamin Franklin Hotel, is 449 feet high and has 44 stories. The two towers stand next to the Mayflower Park Hotel, Seattle’s longest continuously operating hotel. Oh, and if you’re wondering about the giant Marlboro billboard, you can read about smoking in Seattle here.
Seattle skyline, 1986
Construction of the Columbia Center building began in 1982 and finished in 1985. It was designed by Chester L. Lindsey Architects, which also designed the Fourth and Blanchard Building in the Belltown neighborhood, and was built by Howard S. Wright Construction. At 76 stories it’s the tallest skyscraper on the Seattle skyline.
Wallingford Food Giant, ca. 1980s
One of Wallingford’s primary landmarks in the 1980s was the giant red “Food Giant” sign mounted on the roof of the neighborhood’s first supermarket, located across 45th Street from Interlake School. This very 1980s woman is recycling glass in the parking lot.