Thursday, February 23, 2012

Smith Tower, The First Grande Dame of Seattle Skyscrapers

The Space Needle is not the only iconic building here in town. The first Grande Dame of Seattle skyscrapers was the Smith Tower, completed way back in 1914. For nearly 50 years, she was the tallest building west of the Rockies.

The building is named after Lyman Cornelius Smith, industrialist and inventor (1834 - 1910). He was 'the Smith' of Smith and Wesson Firearms and Smith and Corona Typewriters.

The Smith Tower, Seattle, from north Beacon Hill.

The current owner, Walton Street Capital out of Chicago, defaulted on their $42.5 million loan this past year. The loan was acquired by CBRE Group (formerly known as CB Richard Ellis, Inc) for an undisclosed amount and the auction is set for March 23, 2012.

Talk about being upside down. The current assessed value was set for this year by the King County Assessor’s office is $21.3 million.

Walton Street purchased the Tower back in April of 2006 for $42.8 million (top of the market) and in early 2007 filed plans to convert the smaller office spaces to condominiums. The plan stalled when Seattle’s luxury condo market went soft.

The Smith Tower from 2nd Ave and Columbia, Seattle.

I hope the old Dame makes out okay and I wish her well. As a native of the area, she’s a landmark that’s practically etched into my DNA. Even though the Smith Tower is no longer dominant in the Seattle skyline, I’m always delighted to find views of her when I’m driving around town.

The Smith Tower from Interstate 5, Seattle.

The Smith Tower has a neoclassic charm that captivates most everyone who visits. A quick look on shows 53 reviews. With only a couple of exceptions most rate her at 4 and 5 stars.

Seattle and Tacoma have enjoyed a relationship of rivalry since day 1. Originally in 1909, Smith planned to build a 14 story building but his son, Burns Lyman Smith, persuaded him to build the much taller skyscraper to out do Tacoma's National Realty Building. At 16 stories in 1911 it was for a time the tallest building in the west.

The Smith Tower and Seattle skyline from Interstate 5 just south of downtown.

The 38 story structure has a granite facing on the first 2 floors and the remainder with terracotta. On the 35th floor is the observation level known as the Chinese Room. The hand carved ceiling and the furniture were gifts of the last Empress of China. I was fortunate to attend several special occasions here over the years. I love the inner city views from here.

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