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Your Location: World North America U.S.A. Washington Seattle Smith Tower

Smith Tower

Identification

Smith Tower
L.C. Smith Building
119474

Map

Structure in General

skyscraper
existing [completed]
steel
pile foundation
terra-cotta
applied masonry
white
neo-classicism

Usage

commercial office
residential

Facts

  • The Smith Tower contains 1432 doors, 2314 windows, and 40,000 feet of moulding.
  • E.E. Davis Co., using a single crane, set a record by erecting 8 floors of steelwork in one week despite very bad weather.
  • The building was most recently renovated in 1986 for $9 million, and again in 1999 for $28 million.
  • A main attraction of the Chinese Room is the Wishing Chair, a gift from the Empress of China. Legend has it that a single woman sitting in the chair making a wish to be married will be a bride within a year's time. L.C. Smith's daughter sat in this chair in 1914. One year later, she was married, in the Chinese Room.
  • Last office building on the West Coast with live elevator operators.
  • 1,276 Raymond concrete piles measuring 22 feet in length were used to anchor the structure firmly at the base. The 7.1 earthquake of 1949 caused so little damage that the greatest expense was the fee of the investigating structural engineers.
  • The American Bridge Co. produced the steel in a Pittsburgh plant and shipped it on 164 railroad cars, each carrying about 28 tons.
  • For many years the Smith was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.
  • Smith made his fortune making typewriters and guns.
  • 10-foot diameter glass ball on top flashes the hour and quarter-hour at night with red, white and blue lights.
  • The Smith contains 33 full floors of office space.
  • The tower's namesake (1834-1910) never saw it built.
  • The tower was bought by local legend Ivar Haglund (1905-1985) in 1976 for $1.8 million who watched it being built as a child growing up in Seattle in 1913.
  • Top originally contained a 15,000-gallon water tank.
  • Smith's son, Burns Lyman Smith, had seen the rewards of publicity for the Eiffel Tower built in 1889. He reasoned that the new typewriter business could benefit from the publicity of the Smith Tower. And so he convinced his father to build 'up to' 42 stories instead of the original, more modest proposal of 18 stories.
  • Seattle's tallest building for 55 years from 1914-1969.
  • In August 2007, permission was granted for condominium conversion from office use. Approval was required by the City of Seattle Department of Planning & Development, the Pioneer Square Preservation Board, and the Landmarks Preservation Board.
  • The pyramidal roof, which begins at the 36th floor and is 54.5 by 44 feet in plan, extends upward 70 feet.
  • As of June 2008, plans were the top twelve floors, with the exception of the observation deck, would be converted into twelve luxury condominiums by 2010.
  • Ivar Haglund's 16-foot windsock, The Rainbow Salmon, unfurled on September 29, 1977 at the top of the 22-foot flagpole, was designed by kite shop owners Tom Deen and Bill Hull.
  • Design inspired by the 1909 Metropolitan Life Building in New York City.
  • Entrance elevation: 66 feet above sea level.
  • Advertised as the tallest building in the world outside of New York City at 500 feet when completed, but actually its height was overstated. The real holder of that claim was the PNC Tower (1913) in Cincinnati.
  • The tower has survived three earthquakes magnitude 6.0 or greater in the years 1949, 1965, 2001.
  • Today each of the top 12 floors is a Tower Suite, built for individual tenants complete with elevators that open directly into the office space.
  • At completion the building weighed 48,650 tons.
  • Core samples taken 122 feet beneath Second Avenue found fallen trees, some 3 feet in diameter.
  • The building's ornamented, terra cotta cladding material is so impervious to weather that the only time the exterior has required cleaning was in 1976.
  • Smith Tower was built without injury or incident.
  • On opening day, visiting Vice Admiral Kuroi from the cruiser Asama, flagship of the Japanese Imperial Navy, was presented Ticket No. 1 to the top floor observatory.
  • When the building permit was issued, it was to construct a 36-story steel frame and concrete office tower at the northeast corner of 2nd Avenue and Yesler Way (Building Permit #96518, DCLU Microfilm Library).
  • The building opened with 540 individual offices, with 60 of them in the upper tower section.
  • By 1923, the Smith was the tallest west of Chicago, by 1931 west of Kansas City, by 1943 west of Dallas, all the while remaining the tallest west of the Rockies for nearly half a century.
  • Formerly a water tower enclosure and suite for the caretaker, the pyramid at top has been converted into residential usage by Castanes Architects PS AIA and is now known as The Lighthouse.
  • On April 5, 2006 the white terra-cotta landmark was sold by Samis Land Company to Walton Street Capital LLC of Chicago for $42,827,120, making them the 20th owner since 1914.

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More Information

Location

502-508 Second Avenue
506 Second Avenue at Yesler Way
98104
U.S.A.

Technical Data

484.01 ft
462.01 ft
452.01 ft
392.00 ft
120.00 ft
108.00 ft
36
1
1911
1914
2010
7
$1,350,000

Involved Companies

Architect:

Also recorded for this building:

construction company, consultant, electrical contractor, elevator supplier, general contractor, mechanical engineering, owner, property management, real estate agent, security system supplier, steel supplier, structural engineering

Features & Amenities

  • One of the city's famous buildings
  • City landmark