From 1962, a Message to the City Council of the Future

By Erica C. Barnett April 17, 2012

As part of the 50th anniversary celebration of Seattle Center, Center officials have unveiled a letter from the 1962 city council to the 2012 council of the future that was sealed in a time capsule on the Center's grounds. (The capsule was the second municipal time capsule to be unsealed; the first, from 1928, was unsealed in 1962, then resealed and opened again in 2002 when it was accidentally discovered during the construction of the McCaw Opera House at Seattle Center.)

The 1962 city council, featuring Myrtle Edwards. Image via Seattle Municipal Archives.

The city council, along with all the other city departments, wrote the letter to express their concerns and hopes for the future. It includes references to nuclear annihilation, the modern new City Hall building, traffic problems, and, of course, electric cars. [pullquote]We still haven't had another female mayor, and we still don't have flying cars.[/pullquote]
A Message to our Successors on the City Council in the year 2,012:

We cannot see into the future to visualize the Seattle of the future, but we can hope and imagine. In the year 2,012 Seattle will either be a mighty metropolis of more than 1,000,000 residents---or it will have become a charred, deserted relic of a fearful age of nuclear warfare. This year of 1962 is a troubled one in the world as you will have read in history.

But we prefer to look toward the Seattle of 2,012 as a vibrant, lively center of industry (of types we cannot today imagine) and a center of the arts and culture. We hope that the dreams of Seattle citizens of today will have been realized, and that it will be an even more beautiful city than it is today.

Late this month the Seattle World's Fair of 1962 will open. You of 2,012 are, we trust, still enjoying the buildings which we helped to become reality through the Fair. On about June 1 of this year we will be moving into the Seattle Municipal Building at Fourth Avenue and James Street. We believe that the Council of 2,012 still will be occupying that building, for it was built to last until your day. or has Seattle outgrown it?

On the walls of our present offices in the County-City building are pictures of City Councils of past years. Their garb appears old-fashioned to us, just as our appearance in the year 1962 will be odd to you in 2,012.

What are we concerned with today, in addition to the day-to-day job of running an expanding city? At the moment there is concern about apartment rental problems brought on by the Fair. The central freeway is under construction, and the second Lake Washington floating bridge is being built. The city is humming with new construction of many types. We are pushing ahead on an urban-renewal program to rehabilitate older sections of the city. Traffic grows daily in complexity (perhaps you are worrying about aerial traffic congestion!)

We are operating this growing city on a balanced municipal budget--and saving money for capital improvements, besides. We hope that you are doing the same. We hope that Seattle of your day has a larger degree of home rule than we do. We foresee that municipal government of your day will be a different type than in 1962, but we cannot forecast.

To our "colleagues" of 2,012---we extend our greetings over the long years, and we know that you will be as proud to be part of the government of a great city as we are.

Sincerely yours,


David Levine, President

The city council, at that time, consisted of eight men and one woman (Myrtle Edwards, for whom the downtown park is named). Its president, David Levine, was, Wikipedia informs us, a jeweler and watchmaker who belonged to the Socialist Labor Party as a young man and belonged to a Reform Jewish congregation. He served on the council for 31 years and was a supporter of Seattle's only female mayor, Bertha Knight Landes.

Since 1962, of course, traffic has gotten worse, the first floating bridge across Lake Washington, I-90, has been expanded, the second floating bridge is about to be replaced, Seattle Center is being renovated, and the city hall that seemed so new and modern in 1962 has been demolished. We still haven't had another female mayor, and we still don't have flying cars.

Other items in the 1962 time capsule included: One World's Fair Trade dollar; an invitation to the dedication of the new Opera House on April 21, 1962; and copies of three daily papers from April 9, 1962: The Seattle Daily Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and the Daily Journal of Commerce.

Seattle Center is creating another "time capsule" for its 50th anniversary, although this one is entirely virtual. Submit your own memories of the 1962 World's Fair here.

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