1. The corner of 2nd Ave and Yesler housed Bartell’s Owl Drug Store, the second Bartells location, from 1898 until it was demolished in 1911 to make way for the Smith Tower. New York tycoon Lyman Cornelius Smith owned this lot, amongst others in the area.

    Photo: PEMCO Webster & Stevens Collection, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle; All Rights Reserved

  2. Born in Torrington, Connecticut (1850), Smith made his first fortune in the livestock commission business before manufacturing breech-loading firearms and eventually forming the Smith Premier Typewriter Company and L.C. Smith & Brothers Typewriter Company.

    Ad: Munsey’s Magazine
    Drawing of LC Smith: The Seattle Daily Times, November 16, 1909

  3. During a trip to Seattle in November 1909, Smith announced plans to construct an 18-story building on the 2nd and Yesler lot: “This is my first visit here for three years and, after seeing the wonderful improvement that has been made…I decided it would be unfair to Seattle…to let such a location on Second Avenue remain unimproved any longer.”

    Article: The Seattle Daily Times, November 16, 1909

  4. Burns Lyman Smith, L.C. Smith’s son, had watched the building of the world’s first skyscrapers in New York City and quickly saw the publicity bonanza they were creating for F.W. Woolworth, the Singer Sewing Machine Co. and Metropolitan Life.  When his father returned from Seattle, he suggested “building a structure with a tower that would place the Smith building in a class with the best in New York, and alone in its class west of that city.”  By October 1910, the expected height of Smith Tower had increased to forty-two stories (467 feet).

    Photo: From the collection of the Onondaga Historical Association

  5. In late 1910 L.C. Smith passed away and B.L. Smith, the principal heir, decided to proceed with the construction of the tower, then called the L.C. Smith Building.  There were numerous delays due to permits and the division of the late Smith’s estate; however, demolition of the building that formerly occupied 2nd and Yesler began on November 1, 1911, and construction began soon after.

    Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives Photograph Collection

  6. Smith Tower was hailed as one of the tallest office buildings in the world outside New York City at the time of construction and remained the tallest building on the West Coast for almost 50 years.  To an unsophisticated nation just being introduced to such 20th-century wonders as aspirin, crossword puzzles and neon signs, the newly minted skyscraper was another favorite of the Sunday supplements.

    Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives Photograph Collection

  7. The Syracuse, NY architectural firm of Gaggin & Gaggin, boldly rising above the fact that it had never designed a structure higher than a few floors, created plans for one of the world’s earliest skyscrapers.  It was to have a 21-story tower rising from a main 21-story structure, topped by a pyramid-shaped Gothic cap, a design influenced by the circa-1909 Metropolitan Life Tower young Smith had admired.

  8. With construction beginning less than 25 years after the Great Seattle Fire, little wood was used in the construction of the Smith Tower.  The E.E. Davis Company of Seattle erected the steel frame of the building using 7,970,000 lbs of steel.  Window frames and sashes were fashioned of bronze.  Doors were steel, hand-finished to resemble highly-grained mahogany.

    Photo: Frank Nowell photographs of L.C. Smith Tower construction

  9. Around the steel framework was wrapped a cladding of white ornamented terra cotta, a material dating back into antiquity and so resistant to the assaults of city grime that the Smith Tower got its first face washing (with detergent) in 1976.  Mosaic tiles, Alaska marble and Mexican Onyx provided a mirrored setting for the highly-polished brass used as a trim on the elevators and the telegraph and mail chutes.

    Article: The Seattle Star, May 2, 1928

  10. The crown jewel of the Smith Tower is the legendary 35th-floor Chinese Room and Observation Deck.  The room’s name derives from the carved teak ceiling and the carved Blackwood furniture that have adorned the room since its opening in 1914.  Legend has it that the room was furnished by the last Empress of China as a gift to Mr. Smith.  These furnishings include the famed Wishing Chair.  The chair incorporates a carved dragon and a phoenix, which, when combined, portends marriage.  Hence the chair came with the legend that any wishful unmarried woman who sits in it would be married within a year.

    Photo: Frank Nowell photographs of L.C. Smith Tower construction

  11. Although L.C. Smith did not live to see his tower completed, his son was there opening day, July 3, 1914, when nearly 1,500 people were carried to the Observation Deck from 1:30 to 10:00pm.  This included the visiting Vice-Admiral Teijiro Kuroi, commanding officer of the Japanese training squadron, which dropped anchor in Elliott Bay on June 27 for a ten-day sojourn.  Kuroi was so impressed with Seattle that he would not be content until he had visited the top of the L.C. Smith Building, and so special arrangements were made by Mayor Gill for his visit.

    Article: The Seattle Daily Times, July 4, 1914

  12. On July 4, 1914 the Observation Deck was opened to the general public with great crowds forming at the building shortly after 9:00am.  Over 4,000 people rode the elevators to the top that day, paying $0.25 in admission to enjoy the views.

    Photo: Looking northeast from Smith Building, across Lake Union. Webster & Stevens.  The Argus, 1913

  13. In 1929 on a trip back to Seattle, Burns L. Smith officially changed the name of the 42-story L.C. Smith Building to Smith Tower for the sake of brevity.

    Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives Photograph Collection

  14. Smith Tower received quite a bit of attention again in 1976 when Ivar Haglund, the Seattle restaurateur, purchased the building.  His biggest marks on the building included renovating the Chinese Room to showcase Asian artifacts he brought back to the United States himself and flying a rainbow salmon windsock that gained attention for breaking a Municipal Ordinance.

  15. Today Smith Tower remains an office building and is home to companies from a wide range of industries, including tech, law, marketing, and more.  The Chinese Room & Observation Deck are still open daily from 10:00am to dusk and can also be rented out for private events.

    Photo: Vicaso Real Estate Photography