Seattle’s oldest skyscraper just got a facelift and it’s worth a visit. At 42 stories, Smith Tower is no longer the tallest building west of the Mississippi, as it was in 1914. But don’t let that stop you. The view from the 35th floor – inside or outside – does this landmark proud.
Assistant Innkeeper Smokey and yours truly took a field trip to check out how the renovations turned out. Much of the building is office space, a glimpse of which you get as you speed up the original elevator (NOT the original cables, though) courtesy of a uniformed operator. In addition to tower access, your ticket admits you into the well done but mercifully not overwhelming exhibits that describe Seattle during Prohibition. This all sets the mood as you enter the modern speakeasy Temperance, truly a room with a view and an eclectic feel. Some of the furnishings and the incredible ceiling harken back to the days when this level was the beautiful Chinese Room. The Prohibition mood is carried out at the bar – both in décor and selection of spirits. Yet there is a modern, airy feel to some of the café tables and the large picture windows that afford panoramic views of the city and beyond. Even if you don’t like heights, try to brave the outside observation deck. It is solid, with vertical bars all the way up and over your head, and a ledge outside the one you are walking on (sounds way scarier than it is) adds to the feeling of security.
The lunch menu at Temperance is not complex but does offer varied, delicious food and libations. Smokey and I can vouch for the smoked turkey sandwich and faro salad. Because the word “speakeasy” kept coming up, we felt obligated to try a cocktail. Aunt Vivian’s Bedtime is very tasty and on the regular menu; the Sweeney Toddy was peppery good and a special on the chalkboard. Order at the bar for lunch and expect table service (and a bit larger menu) at dinner.
We began and ended our visit with a browse in the gift shop on the first floor. This is where you buy your tickets, which currently cost $14 for adults; $10 for kids 6-12, seniors, military, and WA locals. Kids 5 and under are free. Get tickets online (except locals) or in person. The entrance you want is nearest the corner of Yesler and 2nd, about a block up the hill from the heart of Pioneer Square. Need more to do in the area? In addition to some very cool shops at ground level, you can get a feel for Seattle’s early days by taking a guided walk with Beneath the Streets or Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour.