I have lived south of Seattle for five years now and I am still learning so much about the rich history of this gorgeous city. When I was asked if I would like to take a tour of Smith Tower, I jumped at the chance, as I had never been in the building before.
Smith Tower is the oldest skyscraper in Seattle and its beauty accentuates the ever-changing skyline. In 1914, Smith Tower became the first skyscraper in Seattle and the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. For more than 100 years, it has remained a cultural icon of the city, offering breathtaking panoramic views and spectacular architectural allure.
Smith Tower was recently renovated with new exhibits and enhancements to truly connect the story and “secrets” of the tower through the tour. The renovations include new photo murals, information on the architecture and better radio sound bites with more access to the history emphasized by the Roaring 20’s. The 35th floor observatory now has a speakeasy-inspired bar with craft cocktails and shareable plates and an updated observation deck.
I invited my friend Tiffany with me on the tour and we took a step back in time, imagining ourselves living life in the early 1900’s. Upon entering the ground floor, we were greeted with a historical montage of life when the tower first opened. While the tour is self-guided, you can ask the staff any questions you wish! We were encouraged to look through all the nooks and crannies in the tower – every drawer had a secret!
We watched a very entertaining video about the history of Smith Tower and all the colorful characters that used the rooms for business dealings. After watching the video, we could pick up a tri-fold handout of one of the characters and follow a “scavenger hunt” to learn more about them. I picked Roy Olmstead, a Seattle Rumrunner who smuggled booze from Canada. Mr. Olmstead was considered one of the kings of the Prohibition rumrunners on Puget Sound, “importing” more than 1,500 cases of illegal booze every month! He often visited the Smith Tower, hanging around his lawyer friend, Jerry Finch (the “voice” of the video) or with his new wife, Elise Olmstead. The tri-fold had questions to be answered, and answering the questions correctly can be rewarded with a 10% discount at the bar on drinks – so take advantage and find out some history!
As we walked through the ground floor, we came across a wall with “graffiti” on it! A sign beckons you to become part of the legend, as its tradition to sign the building! Construction workers signed it when it was first built, soldiers sometimes signed up on the Observatory deck before shipping out, and employees signed behind the scenes to celebrate special events! As per tradition, we had to sign the walls too!
In another room, I learned even more about my character, Mr. Olmstead. He apparently used to be a Seattle cop! After he was fired, he started his rumrunning empire, with Canadian liquor coming down by night on fast boats, distributed to customers and speakeasies. Ahhh prohibition days! I can’t even imagine!
Tiffany and I were fascinated with the alleged ghosts of Smith Tower. Some people say the tower is haunted, with shadowy figures gliding down darkened hallways and noises are often heard in empty offices. We didn’t hear any mysterious noises on our tour, but I kind of wish we had!
We made our way up to the iconic Smith Tower Observatory, with its historic Otis elevator. The elevator ride was quick and you had the chance to view every floor on your way up! Our elevator master, Dick, told us a little bit about the history of the floors and the elevator itself. With the building being as historic as it is, this old elevator must have been renovated to be up to the safety standards of this modern age. Materials like stainless steel wire rope (visit this page to learn more about it) may have been used to provide superior strength for hauling visitors up and down all day.
The 35th floor observatory and bar area is nothing short of spectacular as you are greeted with a view of downtown Seattle! If you have friends or family visiting, you MUST take them here for a drink. If you have single girl friends, have them sit in the Wishing Chair. People say that if a young woman sits in this Wishing Chair, she will soon marry her heart’s desire. Tiffany and I sat in the chair pretty much for Instagram photo opportunities – not because we were looking for love in the original Chinese Room, where many myths began!
We walked around on the open-air deck and soaked in the evening sun and those city views. The Seattle skyline, while seemingly every-changing, is quite an architectural dream. Old and new buildings scatter the downtown landscape, with the Puget Sound and mountains serving as the backdrop.
Tiffany and I had a couple of drinks at the bar area and chatted about life while enjoying the views. I went with the Two Beers Brewing Immersion Amber (just want to give a shout out that the President of Two Beers is Caitlin Braam – girl power!) and stared at the looming volcano that is Mt. Rainier in front of us. I live here, and I love it.
Tickets for a tour of Smith Tower are $12 for locals (with valid ID), $13.50 for children, military (with valid ID) and seniors, and $17.10 for adults. You can purchase your tickets here.
Solar Eclipse at Smith Tower
You can also enjoy views of the last solar eclipse crossing the United States until 2099 from their wrap-around, open-air observation deck. While Seattle won’t see the full eclipse, we will see about 92% off it, starting at approximately 9:08 a.m. with peak views at 10:22 a.m. It will be an incredible day to visit the tower for stunning views! Tickets will be available starting at 8:30 a.m. on August 21! You can also purchase their specialty “Eclipse” mimosas and coffee that morning as well!!!
I highly recommend taking a tour of Smith Tower and learning more about the history of this amazing city and all who helped create the foundation of what Seattle is today! And tell them Finch sent you!
506 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA 98104
Ph: (206) 624-0414
Disclosure: I was not financially compensated for this post. I received two comped tour tickets for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.