Smith Tower turns 100

Smith Tower turns 100
SEATTLE - A century ago, on July 4, 1914, developer Burns Lyman Smith officially opened the tallest building west of the Mississippi, giving 4,000 Seattleites an unprecedented view of their city.

The 42-story, 462-foot Smith Tower, at 506 Second Ave., was the dream of Smith's father, New York typewriter and shotgun magnate Lyman Cornelius Smith, who died in 1910, according to HistoryLink.org. "Smith hired Edwin H. Gaggin (1866-1955) and Thomas Walker Gaggin (1871-1945) from his hometown of Syracuse, New York, and vowed that the building would open in 1912.

"It took a bit longer than that."

The building contains 8 million pounds of steel, 67,735 square feet of plate glass, 47,800 barrels of cement, 1.5 million bricks and 1.5 million feet of lumber. It cost $1.5 million to build, equivalent to $35.7 million in current dollars.

Smith's plans for a basement restaurant that could seat more than 600 and a second tower never became reality. Smith Tower is still around, although it has acquired 16 taller neighbors over the years, according to the building information website Emporis.

Most of the building's office space sat vacant in recent years, and a plan to convert the upper part into condominiums foundered after the real estate crash. In 2012, Smith Tower attracted no bidders in a foreclosure auction and reverted to lender CBRE Capital Markets. It now contains offices for more than 40 local companies, and one resident, in the pyramid apartment at its top.

To mark the centennary, Smith Tower plans to:

Offer 25 cent admission -- the same amount that was charged on opening day in 1914 -- on July 4 through July 6;
Light the building's exterior in red, white and blue on the evening of July 4;
Create a time capsule featuring items from Seattle leaders, iconic figures and hometown and heroes; and
Host a Smith Tower Drawing Contest for children 16 and under, and then feature the winning image on a commemorative postcard that will be sold in the Chinese Room and Observation Deck.