The Smith Tower: The Cage at the Top of Seattle

2012-08-30 3

The Smith Tower in Seattle hasn’t been able to claim the title of “tallest skyscraper on the west coast” for 50 years, but this 38-storey neoclassical office tower is still worth a visit. Since the first 34 floors are private offices, and the top three floors are for private residence, your visit will include the lobby, the elevator, and The Chinese Room on the 35th floor.

The sign out front The Smith Tower says it’s ‘42 stories’ but that’s counting the entire height, including the illuminated ball on the roof.

There’s a lot of tile and stone all over this tower, and most of the exterior are made of terracotta. The first thing we noticed was the Starbucks on the main floor – no surprise here, this is Seattle after all. The elevators to the top are brass, and if you get a friendly elevator operator, he’ll tell you about some of the offices you can see through the grate on the way up. If you’re superstitious, you might want to ignore the fact that this 100-year-old building has a 13th floor. Our elevator operator stopped so we could take a picture of the unlucky 13th floor for proof.

The Chinese Room at the top of the elevator is ornate with a carved ceiling and can be rented for private functions; it has been used for weddings and other notable events. The Wishing Chair is said to bring luck to any single woman who sits on it (that she will marry within a year!). The lady working in the little gift shop laughed when my little girl sat on the chair. :) She told me the story of the chair, and I said, “I don’t think so!”

The family that lives at the top of the tower takes the elevator to the 35th floor (as high as it goes) and then takes the stairs the rest of the way to their 3-storey home at the top!

The coolest feature – to me anyway, is the complete wraparound walkway overlooking the city on all four sides. It’s a few feet wide, and completely enclosed like a cage. You can feel the fresh air, and hear the sounds of Pioneer Square down below and take unobstructed photos through the bars (if that kind of thing does it for you), but there is no fear of losing your children over the edge. On occasion (according to one of the employees), the two little girls who live in the only residence (above the Chinese Room) ride their bicycles around the walkway. I let my kids run around for 1/2 an hour playing hide and seek with each other while I took pictures…

It was only a slightly overcast summer day when I shot these pics with a Holga 120N and Lomo LC-A+.

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written by dirklancer on 2012-08-30 #places #view #building #elevator #tour #seattle #location #architecture #dirklancer #highest #urban-adventures #observation-deck #neoclassical


  1. trw
    trw ·

    We tried to go when we were in Seattle earlier this year but didn't realize it is only open on weekends. I'm really sorry we missed it after seeing your photos!

  2. fash_on
    fash_on ·

    awesome location :) that top residence is very intriguing. Is it unusual to have a 13th floor?

  3. dirklancer
    dirklancer ·

    As far as I know, many tall buildings go from the 12th floor to the 14th floor, for superstitious reasons...

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