Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Many questions about Olive Tower

July 24, 2008. Viewed from Pine St., Olive Tower offers a nice juxtaposition up against the Metropolitan Park West and East towers, built some sixty years later. (Micron Pigma 08 on small moleskine. Drawing on location. Gouache color added later.)

August 12, 2008. I could hear the loud roar of cars on I-5 as I was doing this sketch. (Micron Pigma 08 on small moleskine. Drawing on location. Gouache color added later.)

Here's a building that raises a lot of questions for me. Built in 1928, the Olive Tower is a 14-story apartment building featuring a unique art deco facade. Today, it sits next to Interstate 5 and Honda of Seattle.

I find strange that this elegant tower is a lonely sign of the past in this part of town. Were there other art deco buildings nearby and this is the only one left?

I've tried to do some research about it but the most I found via Emporis was that when it opened, two-room suites, unfurnished and furnished, rented for $52.50 to $85 a month. I also wonder how much rent must be now.

[ Cada vez que paso cerca de este edificio me asaltan un montón de preguntas. Construida en 1928, la Olive Tower es una torre de apartamentos de 14 pisos con una singular fachada de estilo art deco. Hoy en día tiene la autopista I-5 a un lado y el concesionario Honda de Seattle al otro. ¶ Me resulta extraño que esta elegante torre se alce solitaria en esta parte de la ciudad. ¿Había más edificios art deco alrededor y éste es el único que queda? ¶ He intentado hacer un poco de investigación al respecto pero lo único que he encontrado via Emporis es que cuando se inauguró, los apartamentos de dos habitaciones sin amueblar se alquilaban por 52.50 dólares al mes y los amueblados por 85. También me pregunto cuánto deben costar hoy en día. ]


  1. I enjoy your drawings and commentary. Not only is the fact that your building stands alone interesting, but I find the name itself interesting. In my city we have an art deco hotel that has been deteriorating for twenty year, but now is finally being renovated. The cornice decorations, the tile work are all beautiful, so I look forward to the building being occupied once more.

  2. and what about the three floor pyramidal loft at the top of the Smith Tower? I was there weeks ago and I get quite surprised to learn about it...

    There are hidden treasures in Seattle in spite of the usual thing here being to demolish everything old...just look at the Seattle Hotel replaced by "sinking ship parking" sad

  3. I am glad to see you using the Pigma .08 for direct sketching. This is one of my own recent discoveries. It keeps me from being timid.

  4. Awesome sketches, even more so as I live in Seattle.

  5. You ought to sketch the steamplant building with the smoke stacks on it that sits in lake Union, would make for a cool sketch.

  6. @aeroroldy: thanks for the tip about the top of Smith Tower, that's a fascinating story! who would have guessed someone actually lives up there. how cool that must be.

    @mik: i take note of the steamplant, i see it from the bus on my way to work every day and always think it'd make a good sketch.

  7. Bridget10:38 PM


    That building is now a low-rent building - I have a girlfriend who lives there and while it is very plain inside, it has some nice features.

  8. I currently live in the building, you did a wonderful job sketching my east facing window :)

    It is a low income building managed by the housing resources group, people who make less than 50% of the King County median income can qualify to live there. All the apartments above the first floor are studios.

  9. I just found this link. What a treat! My grandfather built the Olive Tower. I have a wonderful sepia picture of my mother and aunt on the top of the building when it was topped off in 1928.

    As I understand the history, it was the first "high rise" in Seattle built under the new earthquake building codes.

    I've loved the fact that it has survived and become such an established icon through so many booms and busts. Hope it hits the historical register before the wrecking ball hits it. regards,

    1. Anonymous3:31 PM

      We must be cousins then because my gandfather built the Olive Tower.

    2. Anonymous5:56 PM

      Are you an Armstrong or a Hawkins? What fun!

    3. Anonymous7:22 PM

      Actually my grandfather was the original owner not the builder or architect. My family has always said that he "built" it and I just responded without thinking. Here is a link to the pamphlet advertizing the Tower when it first opened. Its pretty cool. My grandfather is noted on page 11.

  10. Anonymous7:10 PM

    The Olive Tower was my first home after I married. Lived there for about 1 year and a half on the 4th floor looking towards downtown. That was in 1964. One large main room with "murphy beds" on the door, a small and I mean small kitchen, a small dressing room and a bathroom. It was not a low income type of housing then.

    It was handy to downtown, but those days Seattle was a "little" "big" town.