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Where to put the P-I globe?

The landmark will be saved, but no one knows where it will end up. The public should have a major say.

The Seattle P-I Globe, built for the defunct "Seattle Post-Intelligencer," will be preserved. (2007 photo)

The Seattle P-I Globe, built for the defunct "Seattle Post-Intelligencer," will be preserved. (2007 photo) digizen/Flickr (CC)

The iconic Seattle landmark has been saved, but an unsettled issue is where to put it. On the old P-I building? At South Lake Union? Along the "new" waterfront? Under Puget Sound? Experts weigh in, and the Museum of History and Industry asks for your ideas.

Last March, the beloved Seattle Post-Intelligencer Globe — the giant revolving sign atop the newspaper's former headquarters — was "saved" in a deal between the P-I's owner, Hearst Corp., and the Museum of History and Industry. It ensures that no matter what happens, the Globe will wind up in the care of MOHAI. Shortly thereafter in April, the Globe received city landmark status as the Landmarks Preservation Board voted unanimously to protect it.

There's no indication yet when or if the Globe will be removed. The assumption is that it will be dislodged from its perch on Elliott Avenue. No word on that yet. But even more important than the timing is this: if the Globe needs to be moved, where will it go?

MOHAI's boss Leonard Garfield says no decision has been made. The assumption is that Hearst would hoist the 13-plus-ton Globe off the building and it would then be carted somewhere for refurbishing, maybe one of those old hangars at Magnuson Park. The Globe is in good condition; engineers have inspected it but a more thorough survey could be done once it's on the ground. The cost of removing, transporting, restoring, and relocating the Globe, says Garfield, could run around $300,000, maybe more. It depends on its condition, and things like how much of a hassle it will be to move it. The good news is an anonymous donor has made a significant contribution to cover part of the cost. Some smaller donations have also been received. More will have to be raised.

But where should the landmark go after it's refreshed?

The Globe was a recognizable landmark from the day it went up on the old P-I building in Belltown in 1948. In 1985, it was removed, cracked in half, repaired, and moved to its current location on the waterfront where it has been highly visible since early '86.

A number of suggestions have been made for a new home.

An assumed option is the new MOHAI at South Lake Union. The Museum has made a home for many beloved signs like the iconic Rainier Beer "R." But Garfield says the new museum's grand hall isn't big enough for the Globe, and the old Naval armory's roof structurally can't handle it. And that's assuming the zoning would even allow it. Another option would be to find a place for it in the adjacent South Lake Union park. It might be a popular addition to the skyline as seen from the new high-rise apartments and condos planned for the neighborhood.

The Olympic Sculpture Park right near the old P-I's Elliott Avenue offices would be another possibility. The urban, waterfront park has made a point of incorporating and playing-off of old neon signs. The Old Spaghetti Factory looks right at home there.

If not the Sculpture Park, the redesign of the central waterfront might offer some possibilities. Could it be placed in the new park, or on an adjacent piers? Could it be a beacon on a new Colman Dock ferry terminal? Or, one idea thrown out by Michael Herschensohn, president of the Queen Anne Historical Society: What about placing the Globe at the north portal of the new tunnel? That would keep it near its original location by the Pink Elephant Car Wash sign, and it might even receive some state funding as public art!

And speaking of Washington State Department of Transportation projects, one wag at City Hall suggested that the Globe could be put to use as a pontoon on the new 520 bridge.

He's not the only one thinking about dunking the Globe. Historian Paul Dorpat weighs in with his own water solution. "Might we give the P-I Globe an impervious shrink-wrap and lower it to the floor of Puget Sound? I recommend somewhere below the line that Washington State Ferries take between Seattle and Bremerton on the good chance that commuter submarines will eventually take over much of that traffic traveling at business class speeds that would be too disruptive to Bainbridge Island shorelines if permitted on the surface. I expect that these subs will be equipped with windows and seabed illumination too. Because of its size, approaching and passing the P-I Globe at atomic sub speeds would be, well, awesome." Yes, and it would create an audience for underwater billboards.

Back on the surface, Historic Seattle's Eugenia Woo thinks it ought to be on top of a building "so it can be viewed better and spin as it was meant to do." It would also keep it out of reach of vandals. Certainly the scribes at Hearst's seattlepi.com would feel comforted having it overhead wherever they are working.

One building top to consider is its original home. Architect and preservation consultant Larry Johnson, who recently helped get landmark designations for Ballard's Carnegie Library and the Neptune Theater, thinks the Globe really ought to go back to the P-I's old headquarters at Sixth and Wall (currently occupied by City University). While that building has undergone some exterior changes, it retains its basic shape and some of its 1940s Moderne feel. The pedestal that once held the Globe is still empty.

According to the Globe's landmarks nomination, the building was designed without a final decision about the signage. The P-I invited the public to send in suggestions. They included a concept from a University of Washington student named Jack Corsaw who suggested a curved map of the world marked with flashing lines of light to indicate where news was happening. That apparently inspired the P-I's design staff, who turned that map into the Globe and added the P-I slogan and the giant eagle on top — a sign of Seattle's (and the P-I's) global ambitions and national purpose. The steel Globe was fabricated by Pacific Car and Foundry's Structural Steel Division, the outfit that later erected the Space Needle.

Leonard Garfield wants to get the public's input, so consider this an opening to begin thinking about where the Globe ought to go. Seattle often turns to the public to weigh in, not just on tunnels and stadiums. A public contest came up with the nickname "The Emerald City" in the early 1980s, and just this fall, the Space Needle asked the public to submit concepts for painting the Needle's top and vote on the finalists. (Disclosure: I helped pick the finalists.) As a result, the Needle top is being painted in the pattern of a green forest.

Garfield lays out a few simple considerations for prospective locations.

First, he says, issues of feasibility and affordability are, obviously, paramount.

Second, Garfield says MOHAI would want the Globe to remain in the public landscape, prominently sited in public view.

Third, it has to be some place where ongoing stewardship can be ensured, meaning it has to be accessible, not threatened by too much wear and tear or vandals. Putting it at the bottom of Elliott Bay or using it as a pontoon might be a tad problematic.

Likely, the location will require someone to partner with MOHAI, such as the city, a developer, a park, a business or some other institution (how would it look atop the Gates Foundation?). Finding the right partner will be a factor in a final location.

And this being Seattle, Garfield says, it would be nice to have some fun. Herschensohn jokes that "it might be a kitchy addition to the Space Needle, but I'd have to oppose its relocation as President of the Queen Anne Historical Society." Still, the Globe has the capacity to make people smile, and it would be nice to keep that going.

So, Seattle, the mic is open, your input is solicited, the future of the Globe is in your creative hands.

Knute Berger is Mossback, Crosscut's chief Northwest native. He also writes the monthly Grey Matters column for Seattle magazine and is a weekly Friday guest on Weekday on KUOW-FM (94.9). His newest book is Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice, published by Sasquatch Books. In 2011, he was named Writer-in-Residence at the Space Needle and is author of Space Needle, The Spirit of Seattle (2012), the official 50th anniversary history of the tower. You can e-mail him at mossback@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Nov 23, 8:17 a.m. Inappropriate

I Favor putting the PI Globe in a new public sculpture district along the seatte waterfront and incorporating the sam sculpture garden. Bounded by the wind bown umbrella at western and lenora on its south edge and marked by the traffic island at western and thomas this new public sculpture zone would have the sculpture garden ecactly in its center while having plenty of room for citizen and corporate displays. In deed the area has several corporate sculptures now, several plazas, obvious boundaries and a centrally placed unifier in the sculpture park. a series of changing temporary sculptures could unite the seattle center visually to the sculpture garden. keep the pi revolving along elliot bay.

chapala21

Posted Fri, Nov 23, 9 a.m. Inappropriate

Put it next to the Space Needle, on a slightly elevated pedestal. Echoing/recalling the Trylon and Perisphere of the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Charlton2

Posted Fri, Nov 23, 9:09 a.m. Inappropriate

I'd like to see it back at its original location on the old P.I. headquarters at 6th and Wall. That's its historic home and it "fits" the landscape there. It's where all those World's Fair visitors saw it in 1962. Put it back where it belongs.

arizonan

Posted Fri, Nov 23, 9:14 a.m. Inappropriate

Put it back on the old P.I. building at 6th and Wall. That's what history is all about. That's where all those World's Fair visitors saw it in 1962. That's where it belongs.

arizonan

Posted Fri, Nov 23, 9:52 a.m. Inappropriate

I can't see it back on the old PI building. That building has been remodeled to the extent that the proportions of the facade that tied the globe into the building's total design have been lost. There are several iconic neon signs in and around Seattle, and there should be conservation plans for all of them. In addition to the Elephant Car Wash locations, one especially significant sign is the animated Bardahl sign in Ballard. If the Bardahl company ever decides they can no longer maintain it, some plan should be in place to preserve it.


After visiting the Museum of Neon Art in Los Angeles many years ago, I'm convinced that the Puget Sound area would benefit from a neon "sculpture garden" somewhere in the area. A place that could preserve and display these signs; preferably indoors where ambient lighting and climate could be controlled. Such a facility could also provide a venue for the exhibition of non-commercial illuminated artworks as well. Tacoma lost a beautiful animated Rainier sign in Nalley Valley when the Rainier Brewing Company moved to California (for the second time!). It would be a shame to lose other landmark neon pieces from disinterest or neglect, especially when they could be enjoyed by the public at a purpose-built facility and foster artists to produce other illumination-focused artworks for display alongside them.

dbreneman

Posted Fri, Nov 23, 10:26 a.m. Inappropriate

The ideal place for the P.I. Globe is directly atop Frank Gehry's E.M.P. This site would contribute immensely to the growing eclecticism of Seattle Center, casting an ever-changing neon glow on high school football games at Memorial Stadium, complementing the Space Needle in a manner reminiscent of the Pylon and Perisphere of the 1939 New York World's Fair, and outshining the glass jungle that is the Chihuly Museum.
Perhaps it would even inspire different Seattle neighborhoods to contribute their own treasures. Georgetown's Hat 'n' Boots could revert to its original purpose, and replace the service station at Denny and Broad. Fremont's statue of Lenin might be resited among the fountains at Pacific Science Center, honoring the Cold War that made Minoro Yamasaki's building possible in the first place. The underused Coliseum/Key Arena could easily be retrofitted for its natural purpose: extreme skateboarding. A restored bubbleator could carry the boarders to the top, and from there everything is downhill, all the way to Myrtle Edwards Park.

gabowker

Posted Fri, Nov 23, 12:12 p.m. Inappropriate

Art Skolnik sends in his idea:

Saw your story on the PI Globe and want to repeat a suggestion I made years ago for the public consideration. It's not so much about the location as to what it should symbolize.

I believe that we have come to another pivotal point in human history, never to be repeated. That is, the end of printed media. Since the creation of paper by the Chinese, through the invention of the Gutenberg Press, up to the computer/digital age, human communication has been accomplished through the use of printed media. That period is/has ended. And, whether one misses it or not, this point in human history and evolution will be looked upon by our decedents as a most significant adaptation to the further evolution of the human race.

So, what would be more appropriate, but to use the P I Globe as the centerpiece of a printed media memorial/interpretive public space in a very prominent location in Seattle.

Since we can directly connect the evolution of our democratic nation with the print media, I suggest it be the centerpiece of the new public space across the street (West) of our City Hall. An appropriate connection and worthy of high visibility. And, a future backdrop for the practice of freedom of speech by using this public space as a "bughouse square" as practice in Chicago. Perhaps a bronze soapbox should accompany it, encouraging impromptu speeches appropriate to the subject.

I'd love to design that space for this installation and all the intrepretive display that can characterize how print media changed everything about our cultural advancements for thousands of years. But hat's not the focus of my recommendation.

Using the combination of Speech (the first evolutionary invention in communication among hominids) and the Printed media, this couldn't be more important to our citizenry and our future generations, who will look back on our period as antiquated and inefficient.
How wrong they would be!

Posted Fri, Nov 23, 12:35 p.m. Inappropriate

The P-I Globe is more than an artifact of Seattle’s print newspaper history. Even when the P-I was extant, it was more than a sign. The globe was an icon, a talisman for Seattleites, a landmark for visitors, and it was almost spooky-cool for those of us who worked beneath that mammoth, glowing ball, particularly when it rotated above the main entrance of the old P-I at the corner of 6th and Wall, the building for which the globe was designed. At night, off deadline, I would often leave the newsroom just to stand on the sidewalk across the street and gaze up at that radiant presence. I felt proud to work there. Yeah, spooky-cool! And I think it would be most cool if now, in this sadly P-I-deficient world, the globe were returned, in perpetuity, to its original home.

edstover

Posted Fri, Nov 23, 1:57 p.m. Inappropriate

Sculpture Park or the newly renovated Memorial Stadium would both equally be able to 'adopt' the P/I Globe.

animalal

Posted Fri, Nov 23, 5:41 p.m. Inappropriate

Please return the globe to its original home at 6th and Wall. That's the context that gave it meaning. Hopefully, the old P.I. Building will eventually return to the handsome sandstone facade still lurking beneath the superficial fake stucco exterior that was added a few years ago by its latest owners, the Sabey Corporation. Whether or not that ever happens, the globe belongs in the place of honor from whence it came.

CP

Posted Sat, Nov 24, 9:35 a.m. Inappropriate

At least two good ideas (the Sculpture Park and atop the EMP) but one obvious choice is not mentioned: instead of investing in a new location why not negotiate to extend the lease at its present site? it's wonderfully visible, safe from vandals and it memorializes the (temporary) location of the late, lamented PI.

kieth

Posted Sat, Nov 24, 12:12 p.m. Inappropriate

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle_Post-Intelligencer

provides the history of the Post Intelligencer, which became
a Hearst Paper in 1921. The global reach the globe was meant to signify with its design certainly is Hearstian, the man who contributed so much to starting the Spanish American war during which Puerto Rico and the Phillipines changed colonial masters and brought low wage Phillipine labor to Seattle.

I lived opposite the sign on Elliott Avenue during my first three months in Seattle in Summer 1994 and much liked looking at it from the hugely timbered mezzanined loft that I shared with probably the toughest l'il hippie ever to raise hell in Seattle, whom I had met, all cooled out, in a date palm forest in Mexico, on a trial run with a 5 ton truck, his elephant, with which he was planning to plough all the way to Patagonia, an imperialist of sorts too... and from Myrtle Edwards Park... I appreciated the Globe's incongruity, it
had a kind of fairy tale touch sitting there, an eagle that had
gobbled up too much and now sat there with the fruit of its vulture instincts.

I'd probably vote to keep it in place I say not being familiar with
its original home. The sculpture park? I would say no - those are all self-conscious pieces of art. The P.I. Globe is sort of accidental pop art - and a museum for them might be fitting. Perhaps on top of one of the three Cargill grain elevators? Although the Cargill corporation might be persuaded to design a piece of its own, Port Commisioners!, perhaps in honor of the geese that gobble the grain that
spills on the tracks there! The globe ought to have affixed to it on a very legible plaque the paper's history. As a paper, like all Hearst papers, the P.I. of course was never of much reknown except locally, and in that respect indicates an affinity with Rainier beer, the signs are superior to the signified.

mikerol

Posted Sat, Nov 24, 1:48 p.m. Inappropriate

Auction it off and let the market decide. Paul Allen or some other plutocrat would snap it up.

Posted Thu, Dec 6, 9:07 a.m. Inappropriate

Put it in Jean Godden's backyard.

Posted Wed, Jan 2, 9:12 p.m. Inappropriate

The globe needs to go home -- Sixth and Wall.

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