Smith Tower stands at 38 story (484ft/147.52m) in Pioneer Square and was completed in 1914. It was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. In 1931, Kansas city Power and Light became the tallest building and in 1962 the Space Needle took the title.
The building is a Seattle landmark. Named after firearm and typewriter magnet, Lyman Cornelius Smith.
Smith was planning on to build a 14 story building in 1909 but his son, Burns Lyman Smith, convinced him to go taller. The younger Smith wanted to beat rival city Tacoma’s National Realty Building which was the tallest skyscraper (233ft/71m) in 1911 west of the Mississippi.
The older Smith didn’t live to see completion of the tallest skyscraper in west, it was completed in 1914 and opened on July 4th.
Amazing architecture. We were curious about it but our guide Carla from our Underground tour convinced us to go. She mentioned that the elevators are being updated and automated so we should check it out for it’s old time feel. We walked over to Smith Tower after our underground tour but weren’t able to buy tickets because they had to prepare for an event. Argh.
But this really nice elevator operator told us that he will bring us up to to observation deck and to look at the bar but we couldn’t do something (can’t remember what). But, yay! Not sure if something like this would happen in NYC, we have security everywhere so its tougher to do these things. We were so touched.
Anyone who follows me regularly knows that by now I’m getting excited. The building is gorgeous, we got to ride in the old style elevator with the attendant. Totally getting my history dork on. And for a bit, you really do feel like you are in a time machine. The attendant gives the building it’s old school charm and you can feel what it was like in yesteryear. He was telling us that the building is going through renovations and being updated, progress is forward but you can’t help feeling sad; this guy is loosing his job. Only 1 elevator will have an operator after renovations. They will be faster, safer, and up to current code so it’s necessary. The owner of the building understands the significance of the elevator operator jobs and how they preserved a time capsule link to the past, hence the 1 elevator with an operator.
Click here to read an article about the Smith Tower automating their elevators after 103 years of manual operation. There’s a little heartwarming note about 76 year old Hamilton Beale, an elevator operator since 1999 in the article. A kickstarter campaign was set up for him by an office worker in the building to help him retire a little more comfortably. They wanted to thank him for touching their lives through the years.