Centennial Smith
Centennial Smith
By: jbhthescots@mac.com, Categories: Words & Images, Comments Off on Centennial Smith



Here’s a tip for those squiring out-of-town guests: Forget about the Space Needle and take them instead to the top of another Seattle icon – the 42-story, 462 feet Smith Tower, which this year celebrates its centennial anniversary. You may not get as high, but the view from the tower’s wrap-around deck is still marvellous—and a lot cheaper – and you get a quirkier, more historic experience.


The skyline landmark, at 506 Second Avenue, opened on July 4, 1914, as the fourth-tallest building in the world and Seattle’s first skyscraper. The observation deck lies off the so-called “Chinese Room,” which features a carved wood-and-porcelain ceiling. To get there, you take an old-fashioned elevator with a clanging metal door, slid back and forth by surely some of the last elevator operators anywhere in the world who double as tour guides, providing a quick history lesson on the way up. You’ll learn that the iconic tower was built by a quintessential Northwest dreamer, shotgun and typewriter magnate Lyman Cornelius Smith, striving to compete with New York.


Smith’s plans for a basement restaurant that could seat more than 600 and a second tower never became a reality. But Smith Tower is still around, although it has acquired 16 taller neighbours over the years, according to the building information website Emporis. Most of the building’s office space has sat vacant in recent years, and a plan to convert the upper part into condominiums foundered after the real estate crash. In 2012, Smith Tower attracted no bidders in a foreclosure auction and reverted to lender CBRE Capital Partners. Since then, it has started attracting new tenants.


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