Sunday, June 20, 2010

How we ended up in theSmith Tower lighthouse?

One beautiful Seattle day, I looked up at the Smith Tower and was hypnotized by the pointy triangle on top.  I contacted the owners, the Samis Foundation, about taking a look at the upper floors of their massive inventory of downtown buildings and warehouses for a long term lease....but it was the Smith Tower "belfry" I was clamoring after.  A year went by negotiating for the Tower space and navigating Seattle's zoning regulations regarding multi-use buildings.  Many people jumped in and without which I doubt this project would have been successful.  Sally Patterson, Jim Castanes, Dale Chihuly and William Justen, to name a few.  It could not have happened without the village.

The pyramid evolved from a series of dark creepy spaces into a bright open dwelling.  A water tank was removed, giant concrete lumps left on the floors were jack-hammered out, heated maple floors put in, some of the ladders between the floors were replaced with stairs, a make-shift kitchen and two bathrooms were created and most important of all, the gothic windows were made operable.  The resulting triangle has been my residence for thirteen years and it now houses four of us, my husband David, and our daughters, Simone (6) and Naomi (3).  

I had no idea when moving in just how marvelous Pioneer Square would be to live in. It is a unique community of intelligent, fun, authentic and visionary people.  Children are warmly welcomed into galleries, stores, restaurants and the rich fabric of this diverse neighborhood has turned out to be a wonderful place to raise a family.  

There was a white light at the top of the pyramid when I first moved in. The lease it states that the tenant is to change the lightbulbs when they burn out.  Somehow,  I saw that as a license to also change the color and one day, I opted for an ultra-marine blue bulb.  The neighborhood was up in arms and alerted the Seattle Historic Society.  Then a keen young intern at the Samis Foundation, Jack Almo, who happened to be writing an essay on the fiscal history of the Smith Tower, stumbled upon a story about the buildings inauguration festivities back in 1914.  Turns out that the Smith Tower first opened its doors with multi-colored lights shining from the globe.  That established a history of colorful beams coming from the lighthouse to celebrate various holidays and the historic society and neighborhood group allowed my blue beacon to stay.   Thank you Jack!

View west from a living room window.   Originally there one or two horizontal bars (as you see above) across the windows and when I was pregnant with Simone, both David and I decided to install bars and gates throughout the house to abate our intense nightmares.  The place is now a fortress.

The babies could bang on the bars as much as they wanted and be safe.  
This is looking West from one of the bedroom windows.

Simone and Naomi taking a quick bath in the sink after dinner.  They are so much fun.

Looking up at the front facade from the street.

Seasick?  Dizzy look down on the eye lids of the gothic windows from the globe.
The end of the day is really something. 

I was inspired by the bookshelves Dale Chihuly built in the lavatories off the Pendleton room at the boathouse and ended up making my own set with a polymer edging.  What I like is how this showcases the covers of the books rather than just the spines.

In the Chihuly Hotshop urinal, Dale installed two buck heads with massive racks.  Though taxidermy might offend some, I might have to co-opt that idea too sans the urinal.    

The books here are from a box of paperback books I was reading in New York City in 1985.  It is a snapshot of the early eighties and of what was important to me then.  Janet Malcolm,  Joan Didion, Flaubert, James Baldwin,  Voltaire,  Graham Greene, Richard Brautigan, Peter Matthiessen, Oscar Wilde,  Kant, Aldous Huxley,  Henry Miller, Thomas Berger, Dashiell Hammett, Virginia Wolfe, Jean Cocteau...  There are a few exceptions, Cold Snap by Thom Jones, a little hard-cover red book on the right hand side, True Patriot by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer from 2008 and "Don't Think of an Elephant" by George Lakoff.  (See "Evening with Lakoff" post.)

This is from one of our annual "Rational Evenings."  Each guest is asked to bring a fact, statistic or novel view of something that has changed the way they now see a particular issue.  We go around the room hearing from each guest.  Humorous one moment and we're all in tears the next.  En masse it is a riveting adhoc symposium on the issues that are relevant to our friends today. 

Friends arrive and depart by an elevator in the Chinese Room.  
Pictured here is Fred, Ben, Margit, David and me. Ben and Margit Rankin are Simone and Naomi's godparents along with William Justen.  Can't have too many godparents!

Simone cycling in the lobby on a rainy day.  Security guards, Alex and Adam with
bikes in the background, probably getting ready for their commutes home.
Looking South toward the stadiums at dawn.

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