A peek inside Seattle’s Smith Tower, which retains its historic charms

Our photographer explores Seattle’s historic Smith Tower, which at 522 feet was the tallest building on the West Coast when it was completed.

Seattle Times staff photographer

Lyman Cornelius Smith made his money in typewriters and firearms.

His typewriters later became known as Smith Corona.

His firearms were shotguns, the L.C. Smith, or “Sweet Elsie,” considered one of the best ever made.

In 1909, during a visit to Seattle, the New Yorker announced he would construct an 18-story building.

His son, Burns Lyman Smith, persuaded his dad to build a much taller skyscraper.

He thought that would help generate publicity and boost sales of their typewriters.

When the 42-story building opened on July 4, 1914, it was the fourth-tallest building in the world, at 522 feet.

Lyman Cornelius Smith did not live to see it completed, but his initials are referenced throughout the structure in brass, including on the elevators.

Smith Tower contains almost 8 million pounds of steel and seven manually operated elevators. The exterior is mainly terra cotta.

Only elevator No. 7 takes visitors to the observation deck on the 35th floor.

The operators wear suits mimicking those originally worn more than a century ago.

They close the double doors to the car, including the scissors-like gate.

A turn of the original crank gets the mechanism engaged, but modern panels with push buttons are then used with the number of the destination.

As the Otis elevator car rises, passengers can…

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