Smith Tower
The Smith Tower, located in Pioneer Square, is the oldest skyscraper in Seattle, Washington, USA. Completed in 1914, the tower is named after its builder, firearm and typewriter magnate Lyman Cornelius Smith. Containing 38 floors, it was the tallest office building west of the Mississippi River until the Kansas City Power & Light Building was built in 1931. It remained the tallest building on the West Coast until the Space Needle overtook it in 1962. The building is a designated Seattle landmark.

In 1909, Smith planned to build a 14-story building in Seattle. His son, Burns Lyman Smith, convinced him to build instead a much taller skyscraper to steal the crown from rival city Tacoma's National Real Estate Building as the tallest west of the Mississippi. Construction began in 1910. Although Smith did not live to see it, the building was completed in 1914 to a height of 143 m (462 ft) from curbside to the top of the pyramid, with a pinnacle height of 149 m (489 feet). Its ribbon cutting was July 3, 1914. Ivar Haglund of Ivar's restaurant fame bought the tower for $1.8 million in 1976. The Samis Foundation acquired the tower in 1996. In 2006, the building was purchased by Walton Street Capital. The building has been renovated twice, in 1986 and in 1999. High-tech companies flocked to the classy atmosphere of the Smith Tower, which sports fiber-optic wiring, in recent years. The burst of the dot-com bubble hurt the Smith Tower by raising its vacancy rate to 26.1%, twice Seattle's commercial vacancy rate, as of December 21, 2001. The Walt Disney Internet Group, for example, now occupies four floors instead of seven. By 2007, the occupancy rate had rebounded to about 90%. Following the announced departure of the building's two largest occupants, Walton Street Capital filed an application to convert the building into condominiums.

The Smith Tower is an example of neoclassical architecture. Its outer skin is granite on the first and second floors, and terra cotta on the rest. It has been washed only once since its construction, in 1976, because it remains remarkably clean without regular washing. The building is one of the last on the West Coast to have live elevator operators. The Otis Elevator Company provided the elevators, which have brass surfaces. The doors are latticed, so a rider can see into each hallway and through the glass walls in front of each office. The Chinese Room is on the 35th floor of the tower, and the 35th floor also has a wraparound public observation deck. The furniture and the handcarved ceiling were gifts from the Empress of China. They include the famous Wishing Chair. It is said that a single woman who sits in the chair will marry within a year. The legend came true for Smith's daughter, who married in the Chinese Room itself. After the restoration in the early nineties, workers removed a thousand-gallon water tank in the very top of the tower. This resulted in much new space, and what was formerly a small maintenance man's apartment became a three-story penthouse, the only residence in the building. The Tower includes a fallout shelter which can be seen from the entrance hall. The building is crowned by an eight-foot wide glass dome which is illuminated by blue light except for the month of December when it is changed to green.


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