Get To Know Seattle's Historic Buildings

Get To Know Seattle's Historic Buildings

Seattle, Washington is an ever growing city. Starting in the 1980’s, Seattle has been recognized for its livability determined by both the economic and environmental factors; therefore, its population has been growing steadily. One of the key features of Seattle is its historic architecture. Architecture is the representation of a city’s intersection of traditions, economy, technology, economics, as well as its culture. Upon strolling in downtown Seattle, you will come across skyscrapers made with terra cotta; offering different color options. The buildings in Seattle will draw the observer in and expose a certain feeling, which fits the city’s mood. Influences of European architecture are also seen quite a lot in Seattle, as the city drew in numerous architects from all over the world during its growth period in the late 18th century.

Cobb Building

Cobb Building
Source: Photo by user Adam used under CC BY-SA 2.0

An attention-catching structure that is located in downtown Seattle on 1305 4th Avenue (4th & University), the Cobb Building displays the use of light terra cotta as well as the use of brick. The use of light and dark colors make for a great contrast. The 9th and 10th floors of the building have American-Indian chief busts, which underlines the importance of the history of Seattle. Seattle actually got its name from the leader of one of the early Coast Salish tribes. The Coast Salish tribes established an early settlement in Seattle, taking advantage of Seattle’s location. They helped improve the local economy, if not create it. The 11 story Cobb Building was a part of the Metropolitan Tract that took place in Seattle, which was a major movement to reshape the downtown area and build more office spaces in order to drive more people into downtown and establish the downtown area. In fact, the Cobb Building actually served as the first site of the University of Washington, prior to the university’s relocation.

Northern Life Tower

Seattle Tower

Formerly known as the Seattle Tower, this 27 story building is located on 1218 3rd Avenue, right in Seattle’s downtown area. Built in 1928, the building is an example of the Art Deco movement, which shows respect to an elegant style of decorative art. The building is very much defined by the use of angular, symmetrical, and geometric forms. The exterior of the building seems to get lighter as the viewer gazes up the building. It is said that the gradual shift of the colors was meant to imitate the Northern Lights. Here is also an example of the use of terra cotta. The Seattle Tower is owned by the Northern Life Insurance Company, which had the idea of the future and the innovation of the city in mind upon coming up with the design of this particular building. The Seattle Tower is also considered to be a Seattle landmark along with the Smith Tower. For piano enthusiasts, there is a piano gallery in the entrance of the building that is worth taking a look at.

Smith Tower

get to know seattle's historic buildings | smith tower

This is by far my favorite building in Seattle. Built in 1914, this 38 story building was once considered to be the tallest building on the West Coast. Located on the center of Pioneer Square (506 2nd Ave.), Smith Tower gets its name from a New York entrepreneur named Lyman Cornelius Smith. The building features white terra cotta and is known to be entirely fireproof, as this was a focus following the infamous fire that burnt down much of Seattle’s business district and the waterfront in 1889. The building was completed by a New York architecture firm, Gaggin & Gaggin from Syracuse. This shows the popularity that Seattle was gaining at the time, with the arrival of architects from New York. A visit costs 10 USD per person, which gives access to an old-school elevator that goes up to the 35th floor. On the 35th floor of the tower, visitors are allowed to go into the Chinese Room, which displays Chinese motifs that surround the room in its entirety including the ceiling. The room also gives a 360 degree view of the city. Smith Tower is considered a Seattle landmark and it has played a major role in the shaping and the expansion of the city.

Henry M. Jackson Building

Henry M. Jackson Building

One of the city-wide recognized federal buildings, the Henry M. Jackson Building, continues to stand 37 stories tall. Built in 1974, it is currently home to the US Treasury Department, US Coast Guard, and the Department of Veteran Affairs. The structure was named after the US Democratic Congressman Henry M. Jackson. There is a sense of rhythm and balance throughout that can be felt and recognized by the honeycomb geometric pattern of the exterior. There was no use of terra cotta on this particular building; rather, the terra cotta was replaced by brick, and concrete with features of teak as well. It is also located in downtown Seattle on 915 2nd Avenue. One of the key characteristics of the building is its Romanesque entrance.

City of many architects

The expansion of Seattle relied heavily on architects and designers, who had ideas of innovation and improvement in mind with their designs at the time in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The city has come a long way and is now considered to be one of the major metropolitan cities in the United States. The ideas that were brought to Seattle by non-Seattleite architects have helped shape the city. Contributions were also made by numerous architects from the University of Washington. A lot can be learned from a city’s architecture and Seattle is no foreigner when it comes to that topic.

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Efe Ulucay - 21 year old Philosophy student, currently living in Seattle, WA. Originally from Istanbul, Turkey. With a passion for not only writing, but also the idea of traveling and discovering...Read more

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