Since the end of the 1800s, only seven different buildings have had the distinction of being Seattle’s tallest structure. In chronological order, they are…

Pioneer Building

Ca. unknown

Seattle tallest building - Pioneer Building

Ca. 1900

Seattle tallest building - Pioneer Building 2 Photos: Rob Ketcherside/Flickr, Seattle Muncipal Archives/Flickr

Years tallest: 1892 – 1904
Height: 94 feet, 6 floors
Location: 600 First Avenue
Interesting facts: Built on the site of Yesler Mansion, the Richardsonian Romanesque-style structure was designed by architect Elmer Fisher. In 1898, during the Klondike Gold Rush, the Pioneer Building was home to 48 mining companies. During the prohibition era, the building was home to Seattle’s first speakeasy.

Alaska Building

Ca. 1909

Seattle tallest building - Alaska Building

Ca. 1913

Seattle tallest building - Alaska Building 2 Photos: CircaSassy/Flickr, Seattle Public Library

Years tallest: 1904 – 1906
Height: 203 feet, 14 floors
Location: 618 2nd Avenue

Interesting facts: Developed as Seattle’s original skyscraper and built in only 11 months, the building was also the first steel-framed structure in the Northwest. In 2007 the Alaska Building was purchased for $38.7 million and is now a Marriott hotel.

King Street Station Tower

Ca. 1906

Seattle tallest building - King Street Station Tower

Ca. 1911

Seattle tallest building - King Street Station Tower 2

Ca. 1950

Seattle tallest building - King Street Station Tower 3 Photos: Seattle Public Library, Seattle Public LibrarySeattle Public Library

Years tallest: 1906 – 1914
Height: 246 feet, 8 floors
Location: 303 South Jackson Street

Interesting facts: The station was designed by Minnesota architects Charles A. Reed and Allen H. Stem, who later went on to create New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. King Street Station originally served as the Great Northern Railway and Northern Pacific Railway until Amtrack became prominent in the early 1970s.

Smith Tower

Ca. 1913

Seattle tallest building - Smith Tower

Ca. 1923

Seattle tallest building - Smith Tower 2

Ca. 1929

Seattle tallest building - Smith Tower 3

Ca. 1950

Seattle tallest building - Smith Tower 4 Photos: Seattle Municipal Archives/FlickrSeattle Public LibrarySeattle Municipal Archives/FlickrSeattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

Years tallest: 1914 – 1961
Height: 489 feet, 49 floors
Location: 506 Second Avenue

Interesting facts: Smith Tower was originally built by typewriter and firearm entrepreneur Lyman Cornelius Smith. Although Lyman didn’t live to see the project through to completion, his son was able to continue his legacy. Smith Tower quickly became the tallest structure on the West Coast until the Space Needle stole the title in 1962. Today, the tower’s pyramid-shaped penthouse is home to Petra Franklin Lahaie and her family. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment is surprisingly spacious at 1,750 square feet.

Space Needle

Ca. 1961

space needle 1 space needle 2 space needle 3

Ca. 1978

Seattle tallest building - Space Needle 4 Photos: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickrseattle.govWikimediaSeattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

Years tallest: 1961 – 1969
Height: 605 feet
Location: 400 Broad Street

Interesting facts: The original plans for the Space Needle were drawn on a coffee shop placemat in 1959 by entrepreneur Edward E. Carlson. By the time land was finally acquired to build the Space Needle, construction crews had only one year to get the structure completed in time for the 1961 World’s Fair, which had a 21st century theme. The modular, flying saucer-topped Space Needle was to be the main event. More interesting facts and historic photos of the Space Needle can be found here.

Safeco Plaza

Ca. 1969

Seattle tallest building - Safeco Plaza

Ca. 1970

Seattle tallest building - Safeco Plaza 3 Seattle tallest building - Safeco Plaza 2 Photos: Seattle Municipal Archives/FlickrSeattle Municipal Archives/FlickrSeattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

Years tallest: 1969 – 1985
Height: 630 feet, 50 floors
Location: 1001 Fourth Avenue

Interesting facts: The building, which also goes by the names 1001 Fourth Avenue Plaza and Seattle-First National Bank Building, was one of the first rectangular skyscrapers to mark the Seattle skyline.

Columbia Center

Ca. 1986

Seattle tallest building - Columbia Center

Ca. 2014

Seattle tallest building - Columbia Center 2 Photos: theslowlane/Flickr, JoeInSouthernCA/Flickr

Years tallest: 1985 – present
Height: 943 feet, 76 floors
Location: 701 5th Avenue

Interesting facts: Formerly known as Bank of America Tower and Columbia Seafirst Center, this building is now the second tallest skyscraper on the West Coast. During construction, 15,000 tons of steel were used to build the massive building. In summer 2015, the center was purchased for $711 million by Hong Kong investors.

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