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Smith Tower

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Smith Tower
L.C. Smith Building


Structure in General

existing [completed]
pile foundation
applied masonry


commercial office
shop(s) restaurant observation


  • The Smith contains 33 full floors of office space.
  • The building was most recently renovated in 1986 for $9 million, and again in 1999 for $28 million.
  • The Smith Tower contains 1432 doors, 2314 windows, and 40,000 feet of moulding.
  • Smith made his fortune making typewriters and guns.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • E.E. Davis Co., using a single crane, set a record by erecting 8 floors of steelwork in one week despite very bad weather.
  • 10-foot diameter glass ball on top flashes the hour and quarter-hour at night with red, white and blue lights.
  • The pyramidal roof, which begins at the 36th floor and is 54.5 by 44 feet in plan, extends upward 70 feet.
  • At completion the building weighed 48,650 tons.
  • 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.
  • The American Bridge Co. produced the steel in a Pittsburgh plant and shipped it on 164 railroad cars, each carrying about 28 tons.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Top originally contained a 15,000-gallon water tank.
  • Entrance elevation: 66 feet above sea level.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The tower's namesake (1834-1910) never saw it built.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Last office building on the West Coast with live elevator operators.
  • 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.
  • Design inspired by the 1909 Metropolitan Life Building in New York City.
  • Smith Tower was built without injury or incident.
  • For many years the Smith was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.
  • Seattle's tallest building for 55 years from 1914-1969.
  • The tower has survived three earthquakes magnitude 6.0 or greater in the years 1949, 1965, 2001.
  • The building opened with 540 individual offices, with 60 of them in the upper tower section.
  • 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.
  • Core samples taken 122 feet beneath Second Avenue found fallen trees, some 3 feet in diameter.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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More Information


502-508 Second Avenue
202 Yesler Way
210 Jefferson Street
506 Second Avenue
Pioneer Square

Technical Data

484.01 ft
462.01 ft
452.01 ft
392.00 ft
120.00 ft
108.00 ft

Involved Companies

Gaggin & Gaggin

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Features & Amenities

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