506 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
When did the tower start the renovation project? And what were the challenges of the renovation?
The renovation started after Unico purchased Smith Tower in 2015. The creation of the new visitor experience was the most challenging and exciting part of the renovation. Unico made a multimillion-dollar investment to breathe new life into the building for visitors and locals, offering an entirely different experience while still maintaining the integrity of this historical landmark.
General layout and function after the renovation? Is there any new service or elements that people should notice?
Guests begin their journey on street level, entering through Provisions general store. This is a brand new retail store that was vacant before the renovation started. Provisions offer nostalgic favorites from a soda fountain, salads, and sandwiches to go, curated gifts and souvenirs. Guests can also purchase tickets at Provisions if they haven’t already on done so on our website. With a ticket, guests enter through a curtain into interactive exhibits that take visitors on a journey back in time, offering a glimpse into Seattle history as seen through the lens of Smith Tower. Guests then take a ride up the manually-operated Otis elevators, which are the original cars that were in the building when it opened in 1914 – aside from a few safety upgrades! Once they arrive at the Observatory there is a new speakeasy-inspired café and bar offering craft cocktails and bites inspired by the Prohibition era, with an Asian twist.
Chinese element in the building?
The room’s name originally derived from the carved teak ceiling and blackwood furniture that adorned the room on opening. Legend has it that the room was furnished by the last Empress of China, Empress Dowager Cixi, as a gift to the original developer of the building L.C. Smith. Furnishings included the famous Wishing Chair, which still remains in the space today. The chair incorporates a carved dragon and a phoenix, which, when combined, portends marriage. According to folklore, any wishful unmarried person who sits in it would be married within a year. The legend came true for Smith’s daughter, who married in the Chinese Room itself. While the space has been modernized, the teak ceilings and carvings still remain in the space, along with other relics of the room’s enticing past.
Smith Tower’s history as an architecture, a tourist attraction, also a piece of local culture?
Smith Tower means many different things to many different people. From its colorful history, to its distinctive profile in the Seattle skyline, to the beautiful architectural details; the city’s landmark has a unique ability to appeal to locals and visitors alike. Smith Tower is very much a representation of the city of Seattle, with an intriguing juxtaposition of “old meets new” that was further brought to life through our tasteful renovation for all to enjoy. Whether it be as a landmark building, a historical attraction, or simply for a great drink, we have something for everyone.