Seattle Tower (formerly Northern Life Tower), Seattle

Seattle Tower (formerly Northern Life Tower), Seattle

Downtown Seattle's 27-story skyscraper, known as the city's first Art Deco tower, features a distinctive, ziggurat exterior clad in 33 shades of brick designed to effect a gradient which lightens from the bottom to the top. This is said to have been inspired by local (Pacific Northwest) rock formations in the mountains, but similar ziggurats were once located at the very heart of ancient Mesopotamian cities and were looked upon as mountains that had been recreated by human hands.

The plan to construct the building, "finer than anything on the Pacific Coast", at a cost of $1.5 million, was announced in April 1927. Completed one year later, the skyscraper represented a dramatic shift in the appearance of Seattle's skyline. Earlier 20th-century structures had derived their style from classical precedents, but by the 1920s architects began to favor designs that attempted to emulate the speed, efficiency and power found within technology, perceived by many as humanity's hope for the future. The Northern Life Tower was the first building in Seattle to illustrate this style, now known as Art Deco or Art Moderne.

Above everything, the tower beautifully illustrates the increasing popularity of a simple, smooth, almost machine-like exterior. This faith in progress also appeared in the lighting that once fully illuminated the building: more than 200 floodlights faded into one another in a "phantasmagoric display" meant to imitate the aurora borealis, a play on the Northern Life Insurance Company's name and an illustration of the belief that science could imitate nature's most incredible wonders. Today the lights are gone, and taller, newer skyscrapers dwarf the building, but it remains one of the Northwest's most elegant Art Deco designs.

All in all, a memorable destination for those who are fascinated by the brick and mortar edifices of early skyscrapers. There is not a whole lot to see inside, but the lobby (accessible during regular work hours) is absolutely exquisite, with a dark marble floor and a bronze relief above the seating area that's quite worth checking out.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Seattle. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Seattle Tower (formerly Northern Life Tower) on Map

Sight Name: Seattle Tower (formerly Northern Life Tower)
Sight Location: Seattle, USA (See walking tours in Seattle)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Seattle, Washington

Create Your Own Walk in Seattle

Create Your Own Walk in Seattle

Creating your own self-guided walk in Seattle is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Seattle Center Walking Tour

Seattle Center Walking Tour

Just north of Downtown you will find the ever-popular Seattle Center – a 74-acre (30-hectare) park and arts and entertainment center. Developed for the 1962 Century 21 Exposition (World's Fair), it contains many Seattle landmarks, including the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, and the highly interactive Museum of Pop Culture. It is also the...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Fremont Neighborhood Walking Tour

Fremont Neighborhood Walking Tour

At the height of its counterculture days, Fremont renamed itself 'The People's Republic of Fremont' and later gave itself the moniker 'Center of the Universe'. As if to prove the point, there's a signpost showing the distances from Fremont to far-flung places around the globe.

The famous neighborhood is home to some of Seattle's most beloved and controversial...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Historical Religious Buildings Tour

Historical Religious Buildings Tour

Seattle's religious buildings play a very important role in the city's social life. Besides their religious functions, the buildings are an important part of the city's architectural and artistic heritage. This walking tour will lead you to some of the most beautiful religious buildings in Seattle.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Seattle Architecture Walking Tour

Seattle Architecture Walking Tour

Downtown Seattle has many features typical of American cities – towering skyscrapers abuzz with commerce, upscale shopping and dining, splendid theaters – but is also unexpectedly pleasant with hills, outdoor sculptures, and peek-a-boo views of Elliot Bay's sparkling water.

Follow this self-guided walk for a rundown of Seattle's most striking downtown buildings – starting with...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Pioneer Square District Walking Tour

Pioneer Square District Walking Tour

Known as the district where Seattle was founded in the mid-19th century, Pioneer Square went through periods of boom and near-bust until a period of preservation managed to save and transform the area. Today, it is pretty much the most historic part of Seattle with some structures of note, including the Pioneer Building near Occidental Park, the Smith Tower, a Victorian-style wrought-iron pergola...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.8 Km or 0.5 Miles
Seattle Introduction Walking Tour

Seattle Introduction Walking Tour

Seattle's pleasant central area has hills, refined architecture, lapping waves, and a Great Wheel next to the Aquarium along the waterfront. It also has one of the oldest, one-of-a kind, public markets in the U.S., with small stalls selling gorgeous flower arrangements and a staggering assortment of the freshest fruit, vegetables, fish, and meats. Take this walking tour to explore the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 Km or 2.5 Miles

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