Free enamel pin when you buy any two Atlas Obscura products. Shop now.

Seattle, Washington

Smith Tower Penthouse

42nd story Pyramid shaped penthouse tops Seattle's oldest skyscraper. 

The Smith Tower, the oldest skyscraper in Seattle, is an oddity in itself: the white terra-cotta skyscraper rises 522 feet into the Seattle skyline and was built in 1914 becoming the tallest building West of the Mississippi for over 50 years.

Interestingly this skyscraper is topped with a pyramid-shaped gothic cap that makes up the final three stories.

For the first 80 years of the Smith Tower’s life, this cap served mainly as a visually appealing cover for a 10,000-gallon cast-iron water tank that sat underneath, as well as a cramped caretakers apartment.

Then, in 1999, the building changed ownership, and the new owners began a massive renovation of the tower. This renovation involved carefully cutting up the water tank and extracting it via the elevator shafts, to make room for an incredible pyramid-shaped penthouse.

A Seattle insider, flush with money from the recent dot-com boom, quickly snatched up the unparalleled space and signed a lease for an unspecified amount of time and money. Well-known architectural firm Castanes was tapped to help create a modest living space for a single woman in the pyramid loft only to have that swiftly evolve into a family of four.

The redesign kept the penthouse as two floors and a catwalk. There are three stories of open space above the living room, which is now partially filled with a beautiful Chihuly chandelier. The resident made sure to leave the myriad of catwalks and metal stairs that loop upward along the pyramid’s inner walls which used to be used to maintain the water tank. The maze of ladders and catwalks lead upward through the treacherously steep interior to the pièce de résistance, an eight-foot-diameter glass ball that sits on the top of the pyramid. One can only imagine the expansive views from this perch.

While the private residence is currently never completely open to the public, the lessees do periodically hold symposiums and fundraisers for their favorite Seattle non-profits.

The lower observation deck of the Smith Tower is open to viewing and features some quaint history and a speak-easy inspired bar with a food menu. The building still has its original Otis elevators.