Flashback to the Bubbleator at the 1962 World’s Fair

A view of the Bubbleator transporting passengers in a blurry motion.

The Bubbleator’s acrylic glass walls refracted light to mimic a soap bubble. | Photo courtesy of MOHAI

In our ongoing tribute to the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, we’ve covered the Monorail + the Space Needle so far. Now it’s time to get things poppin’ by honoring the quirky “space-age” contraption known as the Bubbleator.

A black-and-white photo of the Bubbleator at the World's Fair.

The Bubbleator cost $62,000 to construct, or about half a million in today’s dollars. | Photo courtesy of MOHAI

Okay, yeah, it was basically just a clear, hydraulic elevator that transported about 100 passengers at a time up one level at the Washington State Coliseum (before the site became Key Arena/Climate Pledge Arena). But people loved that thing. Maybe it was because it gave off “James Bond villain’s lair vibes,” or the cool way it refracted rainbow light through the glass, or because the elevator operators would say dramatically, “Step to the rear of the sphere.”

Whatever the reason, there was a whole movement to save the Bubblelator in the 70s after it outlived its initial purpose. Eventually, the lift landed in the Seattle Armory, before renovations forced another move.

A black-and-white photo inside the former Washington State Coliseum, with cubes decorating the ceiling and the Bubbleator in the background.

About 2.5 million visitors to the World of Tomorrow exhibit rode the Bubbleator in 1962. | Photo courtesy of MOHAI

And it survives to this day. Last year, Seattle Channel tracked the goofy thing down to a backyard in Des Moines, where the top part acts as a greenhouse. Carry on, bub.

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