LAKE STEVENS – A kitschy relic of Seattle’s past has been posted for sale on the Internet, and local history buffs are trying to make sure the Bubbleator chair pops into a museum and not someone’s living room.
The 6-foot-high sculptured chrome chair, which controlled the futuristic bubble elevator at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, is on craigslist, an online ad service.
Waine Fortune, who got the chair 15 years ago from a friend’s father, said he and girlfriend Connie Haugen have to sell it to make ends meet.
Fortune’s posting has received a flurry of responses, including a rejected offer last week of $1,200 from Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. The ad has drawn offers above and below the initial asking price of $3,500, yet most people are urging a public purchase, Fortune said.
“We’ve gotten a ton of responses from people who remember the Bubbleator, have memories of the World’s Fair, and most say they would like it to go to MOHAI,” he said.
Fortune agrees: “I’d really like it to go to the museum. I really would.”
Feliks Banel, MOHAI’s deputy director, has visited Fortune and authenticated the chair.
Not only is it a “quirky, kitschy” historical artifact, Banel said, but a valuable link to the World’s Fair, an optimistic time “that was the best example of Seattle spirit – that if we cooperate and have a common goal, we can do amazing things.”
Banel said the museum would like to reunite the chair with the Bubbleator itself, which remains in private hands. He said both could be made fully operational in a new museum being planned.
But, he added, the nonprofit museum “is not rolling in dough.”
“We don’t want to get in a bidding war. We would lose,” Banel said. “With the rise of the Internet, it’s posed new challenges for museums trying to acquire artifacts, because now everything is a commodity. Ten years ago, that was not the case.”
The chair is not in perfect condition. Someone added some rust-orange shag carpeting, it is missing the space-orb controls on the control panel, and it has some faintly etched graffiti.
Fortune, 40, said he would donate the chair if his life and finances were different. He has been out of work since being injured several years ago when a drunken driver hit him at a construction site.
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