Sometimes we walk our same old route, thinking about business, busily
talking on the phone or dodging traffic. Now and then it is a good thing to look up — you may be missing something.
A leisurely stroll from Yesler Way, along Third Avenue may show you some of Seattle’s architectural gems that you have missed, or just forgotten about. It’s just under a mile and shouldn’t take more than half an hour to walk, unless you stop to look. You are supposed to stop and look.
Start at Second Avenue and Yesler at the Smith Tower, a genuine Seattle icon. Long before the Space Needle, the Smith Tower was the proud symbol of Seattle, its white terracotta façade soaring 42 stories to a height of 522 feet.
It wasn’t supposed to be that tall. Typewriter tycoon L. C. Smith intended
to build a 14 story building, but his son, Burns, thought building a genuine skyscraper would give the company great publicity. It did. When it was completed in 1914 it was hailed as the tallest building in the world outside of New York City. It wasn’t, really, but it was the tallest building west of Ohio and held the title tallest west of the Mississippi until 1936. It wasn’t until 1962, with construction of the Space Needle, that it surrendered its title as tallest building in Washington.
All the exterior window frames are double-hung bronze and they all open. Its design is neoclassic and it not only has gleaming brass, cage-style elevators, it is the last building in Washington, and maybe on the West Coast, to have elevator operators.
The Chinese Room on the 35th floor is surrounded by an outdoor observation deck. The Chinese Room is furnished with antique Chinese furniture, including a throne-like wishing chair, said to bring marriage within a year to any single person who sits in it. The observation deck is open year-around. There is a nominal fee. Consult www.smithtower.comfor times.
Up on Third Avenue at Cherry is everyone’s favorite downtown building, the Arctic Building. Why is it everyone’s favorite? Because its grinning, life-size walrus heads, complete with tusks, line the third floor of the eight-story, terracotta faced building. Commissioned in 1916 by members of the Arctic Club, an exclusive organization for men who actually returned from the Yukon gold rush with gold in their pockets, it boasts marble in its main corridors and an enormous glass dome in the club room. The recently refurbished building is now home to the Doubletree Arctic Club Hotel.
If you look uphill from Cherry Street you will see the tallest building in the
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