Photo: Flickr/Tiffany Von Arnim
When Seattle’s Smith Tower was built in 1914, it was the tallest building on the West Coast for over 50 years and the tallest structure in the city until the Space Needle was completed in 1961 . Though its 42 stories seem modest now in comparison to modern skyscrapers, the Smith Tower was a wonder of its time. Most Seattle residents know that tenants rent office space in the tower and visitors enjoy views of the city from the observation deck. But did you know that at a family lives at the tippy top of the tower?
For over 80 years the pyramid served as a tiny caretakers apartment and a cover for the 10,000 gallon water tank underneath. Then, in 1999 choreographer-turned-venture-capitalist, Petra Franklin decided she wanted to live there. With panoramic views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains to the west, the Cascades to the east, and Pioneer Square below — Franklin had the right idea.
The owners of Smith Tower hadn’t accounted for the value of the pyramid when they bought the building, so if someone wanted to live there and pay rent, it was fine by them. The pyramid was converted into a two bedroom, two bathroom 1,750-square-foot apartment. Franklin dug around the building for treasures to use in the renovations. She incorporated discarded marble and interesting scrim from the building’s “Chinese Room”.
Surprisingly, Jim Castanes, the architect who mapped out the floorplan, told the New York Times that the budget on the project was “very, very low.” Franklin was a friend of famous blown glass artist Dale Chihuly and a chandelier from his body of work hangs from the ceiling. When not busy raising her children, Franklin hosts fundraisers and symposiums for major players all over the city.
The Smith Tower was acquired by Unico Properties in 2015 for $73.7 million, a value double what it was when the historic building was last sold in 2012. The new owners said they intend to upgrade the elevator and spiff up the Observation Deck/Chinese Room at the top of the tower. They also plan to partner with the Seattle Underground Tour to incorporate a trip to Smith Tower into the itinerary.
Franklin’s lease on the place was for 20 years. Who knows whats next for the penthouse in the Pyramid?