Retro Otis Elevators Make Seattle Landmark Worth the Visit

Brass-adorned Otis elevators sit ready to whisk workers up to their offices and visitors up to the 35th-floor Observatory, which offers spectacular views of downtown Seattle and access to a hip, Prohibition-themed bar. For history buffs, the elevators alone are worth the trip — the original cabs include collapsible gates and are staffed by period-costumed operators. Photo courtesy of

When it opened in 1914, Seattle’s Smith Tower, at 484 ft., was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River, a title it held for 17 years. Today, the building, which houses office space, has a 35th-floor Observatory and a Prohibition-themed, “speakeasy”-style bar that have become popular with tourists. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia user Christopher S. Maloney.

Tourism is fun. History is fun. Good food and drink are fun. When you can combine all three, and throw in a breathtaking backdrop and ride on a vintage Otis elevator (complete with an old-fashioned, human operator), there are few better ways to spend an afternoon or evening. If this sounds like your idea of fun, The Daily Meal has found the perfect place: Smith Tower, Seattle’s first skyscraper and an iconic landmark that for 17 years was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River, and stood as the West Coast’s tallest for nearly 50 years. Though classic and retro in style, the building has been home to a number of high-tech companies in recent years. But, the real drawing card is the Observatory and its adjacent, Prohibition-themed bar. It’s open daily to the public, and discounted tickets for the ride up are available on the building’s website. With its spectacular view and its super-cool Otis elevators, this room with a view is worth the ride.

The Elevator’s Role in the Game Show Exodus

If you grew up in the 1960s or later, it’s a safe bet you grew up watching game shows on television. The excitement, the prizes and the feeling of being able to compete from the comfort of your easy chair were all compelling reasons to tune in. And, as these programs gained popularity, their producers wanted bigger, flashier sets to ramp up the excitement even more. There was a small problem, though. These shows were being produced in relatively cramped, former radio studios in New York City, and, as the New York Times notes, bringing the grand prize — such as a brand-new, shiny Mercury or Chevrolet — up to an eighth-floor studio was difficult. In most cases the towers housing the studios weren’t equipped with freight lifts designed to carry cargo of that size. The producers turned their attention west, to the wide-open spaces of Southern California, where it was easy to find warehouse-sized studios with room for all the glamour, glitz and frenzied audience members they could ever need. The Big Apple lost out, it would seem, all for the want of a bigger elevator.

A “Price Is Right” contestant checks out his prize in 1962, when the show was filmed in New York. New York Times, NBCU Photo Bank, via Getty Images

Today’s the Day to Have Your Say

There’s probably nothing else that puts strangers together in close proximity quite like an elevator does. As a rider, almost every time the door opens, in walks someone you’ve never met before. So there you are, in a closed space looking at an unfamiliar face, and the inevitable happens.


Perhaps it’s just human nature, but most of us find it difficult to strike up a conversation with someone we don’t know. Maybe it’s shyness. Maybe we’re afraid the other person is in no mood to chat. Whatever the reason, within the small confines of an elevator the silence seems particularly awkward. Sometimes, you just wish you had an excuse to get a conversation going.

Well, today, you have your excuse. Our friends at KONE want to remind everyone that July 28 is “National Talk in an Elevator Day.” So, go ahead and break the ice. Need ideas? Check out KONE’s blog on the topic.