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15 historic American skyscrapers that aren't the Empire State Building

By: Matt Hickman on March 4, 2016, 12:53 p.m.
Smith Tower in Seattle

Photo: Christopher S. Maloney/Wikimedia Commons

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Smith Tower, Seattle

The skyscraper-laden Seattle skyline is best known for a certain space-age oddity. But when you ask a real old-timer about the city’s most beloved tall building, they’ll likely point you not in the direction of the Space Needle but of Smith Tower.

An enduring Seattle icon erected well before the Amazon onslaught and the age of giant Ferris wheels, Smith Tower enjoyed a decades-long reign as the tallest building not just in Seattle or Washington state but anywhere west of the Mississippi from its completion in 1914 through the crash-landing of the Space Needle in 1962. Topping out at 462 feet, Smith Tower is currently the Emerald City's 18th lankiest building while the Space Needle, once considered so mind-blowingly tall, is in the sixth place slot at 602 feet. Although no longer the tallest tower in town, Smith Tower is certainly not without historic charm. Topped with a pyramid-shaped cap (a nod to the Met Life Tower in Manhattan, completed just a few years prior), the terra cotta-clad office tower's most noted attribute — aside from the fact that it still employs elevator operators — is the 35th floor observation deck and Chinese Room. And while it once concealed the building's 10,000 cast-iron water tower along with rickety caretaker's quarters, that pyramidal topper is now home to the most bananas penthouse apartment imaginable.