Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Heath and Twichell, Architects (firm); Ketner Brothers, Building Contractors (firm); Pederson, Hans, Building Contractor (firm); Frederick Henry Heath (architect); Hans Pederson Sr. (building contractor); Luther Twichell (architect)

Dates: constructed 1909-1911

16 stories

view all images ( of 2 shown)

1117 Pacific Avenue
Downtown, Tacoma, WA 98402

OpenStreetMap (new tab)
Google Map (new tab)
click to view google map
The National Realty Building stood at 1117-1119 Pacific Avenue.


The 16-story, steel-framed National Realty Building was one of the tallest and most structurally ambitious building projects attempted in Washington State before the completion of Seattle's Smith Tower in 1914. In scale, it rivalled Seattle's Hoge Building #2, erected at about the same time, which would eventually rise to 18 stories.

Building History

The Tacoma architectural firm of Heath and Twichell designed the National Realty Company Building in the late 1900s, producing an innovative structural plan that, at sixteen stories (232-feet tall), stood for three years as the tallest building in the Pacific Northwest. It was the earliest skyscraper to be designed to tolerate earthquakes in the region, composed of a steel frame and utilizing a novel cantilevered-beam structural method.

The noted Seattle building contractor, Hans Pederson, Sr., (1864-1933), served as the highrise's general contractor.

As noted in the remarkable Tacoma Pierce County Building Index, ground was broken on the tower on 05/22/1909, with work on its foundations progressing by 10/1909.

The National Realty Company sold the tower in 1917, setting a record as Tacoma's most expensive real estate deal up to that time. Three years later, the Puget Sound National Bank purchased the building.

Building Notes

The National Realty building had an I-shaped plan, containing 375 offices, 32 bathrooms, and four elevators. Its interiors were faced with Alaskan marble and mahogany finishes

Heath and Twichell designed a skyscraper with detailing influenced by French Renaissance and Baroque precedents. The most apparent French-derived feature was the steeply-pitched Mansard roof and its ornate wall dormers. (The building's tall Mansard may have been included in the design to help stretch its verticality to make it taller than Seattle's 205-foot Hoge Building.) The front facade had a baskethandle-arched window over the main entry, again common in French Chateauesque design, which itself was flanked by two oeil-de-boeufwindows surrounding by highly ornate ornamentation. This florid decoration around these round windows could have been seen in French Baroque or Neo-Baroque architecture.

In order to entice law firms to seek space in the building, a large law library was installed in the building at opening. Law firms could afford high rents, making the building particularly profitable.

On 10/15/1916, Tacoma police raided the "Electric Logging Company," a bar catering to wealthy businessmen in the National Realty Building, resulting in 40 arrests. The Washington Legislature passed a state-wide ban on the consumption of alcohol beginning at midnight on 12/31/1915. As a result of lobbying from the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and a coalition of allied groups, the state enacted a local-option enabling prohibition on a city or county-wide levels in 1909.


A very small annex at 1115 Pacific Avenue was erected in 1912.

The Ketner Brothers, a Tacoma construction firm, worked on a renovation of the National Realty Building in 1938.

In 1942, the Puget Sound Bank renovated its banking interiors and refaced the first three stories of the exterior in red granite. This work was completed by 09/30/1942. All of the original highly ornamental detailing was removed.

A renovation occurred in 1983.

PCAD id: 11864