What would Seattle be without the Space Needle?
In a recent survey gauging Americans’ ability to recognize a handful of U.S. cities without their most well-known landmarks, most people mistook the Emerald City for the Windy City.
In fact, to this survey’s respondents, Seattle had the least recognizable skyline among four major U.S. cities.
Denver, with its mountainous backdrop, was the most recognizable. So perhaps a different angle, with Mount Rainier in the background, would have spared us the comparisons to the flat Midwest.
“I’m not going to say anything derogatory about Seattle because you don’t see the sun and you have a stupid spike (for your landmark), but it’s amusing to me that anyone would confuse the two,” said noted Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, when told of the survey’s findings.
“You have progressive politicians; we have crooked politicians. You have reasonably good soccer; we have (expletive) soccer. We have Frank Sinatra and (the song) ‘Chicago’ and you have Bobby Sherman’s ‘Seattle.’“
In a 2018 survey, rental equipment company Big Rentz found that certain cities, such as Houston, had more easily identifiable skylines than others, such as Los Angeles. But then they wondered: Would those cities still be recognizable without their most well-known structures?
In this survey, 4,000 Americans from around the country were shown pictures of St. Louis, Seattle, Denver and Chicago — without their major landmarks — and asked to identify them.
Seattle was the only edited city skyline that stumped a majority of respondents, with 65% identifying it incorrectly and 53% believing it was Chicago. Meanwhile, when people saw the real Chicago, 57% correctly identified it, even without the former Sears Tower.
Comedian and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Julia Sweeney, who grew up in Spokane, attended the University of Washington and lived for years in the Windy City, knows both cities well and sees little similarity, other than proximity to large bodies of water.
“Both feel pride in their cities, 100%,” she said during a recent tour stop in the Pacific Northwest. “But in Seattle, they say, ‘I’m a hipster from the Pacific Northwest. I’m cool. I’m an artist who lives in a loft and there’s a lot of trees.’ In Chicago, it’s, ‘Hey, we’re not cool but we’re no-nonsense and plain-spoken. We have broad shoulders, Midwest values and we’ll be the last ones standing.'”
The definitive way to tell, Kass said, should it come to that? “In Chicago, we have legal weed now, but we don’t have untold hordes of guys with beards on bicycles and little mustard pants.”