Friday, January 22, 2021

Smith Tower Seattle

Photos above taken in 2014

Photos above taken in November 2018

The Smith Tower is oldest skyscraper (38 floors, 469 feet) in the city.  Built between 1911 & 1914, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River until 1931 & tallest on the West Coast until the Space Needle was built in 1962. It's named after its builder:  Lyman Cornelius Smith. Smith originally planned on a 14-story building.  But his son convinced him to build taller than the National Realty Building in Tacoma, the tallest west of the Mississippi River at that time. Designated as a Seattle landmark in 1984, it is a lofty example of neoclassical architecture.  The surface is granite to the 2nd floor, then gleaming white terracotta from the 3rd floor on up.  The building has had a number of owners including Ivar Haglund, founder of Ivar's restaurants. It has been renovated several times.  The 35th-floor observation deck (near the top) has a 360-degree view of downtown, SoDo, Elliott Bay & more.  (The Space Needle has broader views, with the viewing deck at 518 feet, but the Smith Tower is less expensive & much less crowded.)  I went to the top of the Smith Tower for the 1st time with my Cub Scout den in 1968, many thanks to Mrs. del Fierro.  I have gone back twice.  At the top of the Smith Tower is a pyramid with a 1,750-square-foot, 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment.  Last I heard, people lived in it.  The observation deck is just below the pyramid.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Pioneer Square Seattle

The Pioneer Square Pergola was built in 1909 as cable car stop. In January 2001, the iron & glass structure collapsed when it was hit by a truck. It was replaced in August 2002.

The Pioneer Building was completed in 1892. 4 photos above taken in January 2014

King Street Station was built in 1904-06. The clocktower was inspired by St Mark's Campanile in Venice. Photo taken in June 2017

3 photos above taken in December 2017

Click here for more photos of Pioneer Square.

Pioneer Square is one of my favorite places in Seattle.  It's popular with Seattleites & also a popular tourist attraction.  Many people live & work there.  Shops & restaurants cater to locals more than to tourists, even during the short tourist season.  Pioneer Square's derelict period ended many years ago.  It is now more urban chic.      

The area now called Pioneer Square became Seattle's first permanent American settlement in 1852. It was the only sizable piece of level ground on Elliott Bay.  It developed quickly into a residential & business district of wooden buildings.  Those were all destroyed in the Great Fire of 1889.  It was quickly rebuilt as the central business district by 1892 with brick & stone buildings in the Richardsonian Romanesque style popular in the United States from 1885 to 1905. Pioneer Square has one of the best surviving collections of Richardsonian Romanesque commercial architecture in the US & became a National Historic District in 1970.  An interesting feature of Pioneer Square is the Seattle Underground which can be explored in the Underground Tour. Because the area was built on low ground, high tides sometimes filled the streets, which were raised by one level.  That turned the former 1st floors into basements with front doors, windows, signage & sidewalks still intact. 

Pioneer Square peaked during the Klondike Gold Rush (1896-99) then fell into decline. By the 1920s, it was seen as the southern part of downtown, rather than Seattle’s main commercial center. It became a district of taverns & seedy hotels. The city government reversed that decline when it named Pioneer Square Preservation District as Seattle's first such district in May 1970. The Pioneer Square-Skid Road Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in June 1970. The neighborhood takes its name from a small triangular plaza near the corner of First Ave & Yesler Way, originally known as Pioneer Place. Yesler Way was known as "skid road" during the early days of settlement when logs were skidded down the steeply sloping road to the Yesler Sawmill located on Elliott Bay. It is the likely origin of the term "skid row" from the seedy period of Pioneer Square.

Significant structures & sites in Pioneer Square: 

Grand Central Building 216 1st Avenue S: It was built in 1889-90 as an office building & converted to the Grand Central Hotel during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897.  It was renovated 1971 as an office building with the Grand Central Bakery (established 1972) & other shops on the ground level.

King Street Station 303 South Jackson St: It was built in 1904-06 by the Great Northern Railway & Northern Pacific Railway.  It was most recently renovated in 2013, restoring its original fixtures. Inside the main entry, at the base of the clock tower, is the main hall, known as the Compass Room. Its ceiling resembles one at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.  It is served by 3 Amtrak routes & commuter trains run by Sound Transit.

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
319 2nd Ave S: A museum located in the Cadillac Hotel, an 1889 building that was a major point of outfitting & departure during the gold rush.

Merchants Cafe 109 Yesler Way: Seattle's oldest restaurant opened in 1890.

Occidental Square 117 S Washington St: A 0.6 acre public park located between the 19th-century Grand Central Building & the 21st-century Weyerhaeuser Company Headquarters.  In summer, it's filled with park furniture, bocce courts, ping pong tables, occasional festivals & crafts markets.

Pioneer Building 600 1st Ave: One of the most impressive of the historic structures in Pioneer Square, it was built in 1889-92.  It is 94 feet tall with a beautiful facade.  It was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1977.  It stands behind the Pioneer Square Pergola & totem pole.  You can buy tickets for the Seattle Underground Tour there. It was built as & remains an office building.

Pioneer Square Pergola at 1st Avenue & Yesler Way: The small park also includes a totem pole & plaza with benches in front of the Pioneer Building.

Smith Tower 506 2nd Ave: The oldest skyscraper in the city (38 floors) was built 1911-14.  It was the tallest building on the West Coast until 1962.  Designated as a Seattle landmark in 1984, it is a lofty example of neoclassical architecture.  The surface is granite to the 2rd floor, then gleaming white terracotta from the 3rd floor on up. The observation deck near the top has a 360-degree view of 
downtown, SoDo, Elliott Bay & more.

Union Station 401 S Jackson St: Built in 1910-11, 3 train lines used this station until 1971.  Then it was unused until an expansive renovation was finished in 1999.  The renovation won the 2000 National Historic Preservation Award. The beautiful Great Hall is open to the public during business hours.  Union Station is now the headquarters of Sound Transit.

UPS Waterfall Garden Park 2nd Ave & Main St: The small private park was created in 1978 at the site of the original UPS (United Parcel Service) building.  It is open to the public during the day.  The Japanese-style garden has a 22-foot tall waterfall flowing at 5,000 gallons per minute.  It is one of the most expensive parks per square foot built in the US.