AKA: Norton Building, Downtown, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Bindon, Wright and Partners, Architects (firm); Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), San Francisco, CA (firm); Wright, Howard S., (HSW) Construction Company (firm); Edward Charles Bassett (architect); Leonard William Somerville Bindon (architect); Myron Goldsmith (architect/engineer); John Ogden Merrill (architect); Nathaniel Alexander Owings (architect); Alan Scott Robinson (architect); Louis Skidmore Sr. (architect); Howard S. Wright (building contractor/developer); John LeBaron Wright (architect)

Dates: constructed 1957-1959

17 stories

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801 2nd Avenue
Downtown, Seattle, WA 98104-1502

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The Norton Building has been recognized as Seattle's most significant Modern skyscraper of the 1950s by many architectural historians. Designed by the San Francisco Office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) in association with Seattle-based Bindon and Wright, the Norton Building was one of the earliest true curtain-wall office towers in the city, and was, in its time, the tallest, a bold icon of the future. It was Seattle's version of New York's groundbreaking Lever House (1951-1952), executed by the New York branch of the same firm, SOM.

Building History

Like the contemporary Crown Zellerbach Building (1957-1959), Skidmore Owings and Merrill's (SOM) San Francisco branch designed this significant, early, curtain-walled, International Style skyscraper office tower. Myron Goldsmith (1918-1996) of SOM's San Francisco office was active in the Seattle skyscraper's design; Goldsmith worked for the client, the United Exchange Building Corporation; architect Alan S. Robinson (1913-1996) served as SOM SF's Project Manager for the Norton Building. Seattle architects, Bindon and Wright, served as local, associated architects with SOM on this building, with Leonard Bindon (1899-1980) taking the lead. (SOM was not licensed to practice architecture in the State of Washington at this time.) The Norton Building's steel frame was complete by 03/03/1959. Pennsylvania-born lumberman Matthew G. Norton, Sr., (born 04/30/1831 in Lewisburg, PA-d. 07/15/1917 in Pasadena, CA), a business associate of lumber magnate Frederick Weyerhaeuser (born Friedrich Weyerhäuser, 1834-1914), was an early real estate investor in Seattle; Norton owned extensive timber lands in MN, WI, and MS, and, subsequently, in the Pacific Northwest, as timber reserves depleted in the Midwest and South. This building was erected by his grandson, Norton B. Clapp (1906-1995).

Building Notes

In part, the Norton Building replaced the two-story Colonial Building that stood on the northeast corner of 2nd Avenue and Columbia Street since 1888.

An article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported a construction fire at the Norton Building site on 05/14/1959: "The new Norton Bldg., at 2d Ave. and Columbia St. had its first fire at 12:27 p.m. yesterday, but there was no damage to the concrete and steel structure. The Fire Department reported that sparks from a welder's torch on the 17th floor fell to the 11th floor and ignited rubbish. The fire was extinguished by workers by the time firemen arrived." (See "Workmen Put Out First Fire at City's New Norton Building," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 05/15/1959, p. 15.)

Clad in aluminum, the Norton Building stood 17 stories high, the tallest structure in Seattle, WA, at the time. (Garage and mezzanine floors add 2 stories to make 19.)

The Norton Building was one of nine buildings presented a design award in the 10th annual competition sponsored by the Washington State Chapter of the American Institute of Architects on 12/08/1960. (See "Architects Cite Nine Winning Buildings," Seattle Times, 12/09/1960, p. 5.)

Its huge, pre-stressed concrete beams were produced in Tacoma, WA.

For many years, the Seattle architectural firm, Loschky Marquardt Nesholm, (LMN), had its offices on the Norton Buildings's 4th and 5th floors. Coughlin Porter Lundeen (CPL), Structural Engineers, occupied space on the 9th and 10th floors; CPL's offices were designed by Weaver Architects.

A sculpture by Northwest artist Philip McCracken (b. 1928) stood on the exterior plaza. Tel: (206) 464-5220 (2009).