USA: Pacific Tower, an Art Deco Landmark in Seattle.

Two Seattle landmarks: Mt Rainier and Pacific Tower.
An Art Deco structure that towers over Seattle.

Why visit? 
Anybody who's ever driven a car around Seattle's main arteries will have seen this building. Yet few people know its name, let alone have set foot in it.

It's a true landmark that's overlooked by many, in spite of being an outstanding Art Deco gem. 

On top of Seattle's Beacon Hill, near the junction of highways I-90 and I-5. Map

EVERY DAY, 1000's of commuters race (or trundle) along Seattle's main highways, I-90 and I-5, passing a lonely building on a hill that marks, roughly, the junction of these two, often congested, arteries. 
The view from I-5. 

But we bet few people have ever consciously given the building a second glance, as their eyes are fixed on the road. Even fewer will know its name. 

Yet even from a distance it is clear that this is a historic building, a massive pile in the step pyramid form so typical of Art Deco. 

And if you ever make the brief effort to get of the highway to get up close and personal with this magnificent pile of bricks, you will not be disappointed. 

Pacific Tower's stepped shape is indeed a dead give-away. Built at the height of the Art Deco period, in 1932, it has the typical ziggurat shape that was influenced by either Mayan temples or Mesopotamian pyramids, depending on who you want to believe. 

The main entrance. 
The building was created as the Seattle Marine Hospital for the US Navy, offering 312 beds for seamen in urgent need of medical care. For much of its life it has served medical purposes, and to this day there are medical facilities housed in the building. Some marine iconography remains, including various sculpted anchors. Like most Seattle Art Deco constructions, the outside decorations are made of terracotta. 
An anchor and a caduceus, used by the US Navy Hospital Corps as a symbol of medicine. 
The ground floor houses a small exhibition of paintings from the 1930's by the hand of Kenneth Callahan, himself a retired merchant mariner. The paintings celebrate seafaring life, and although Callahan was no Caravaggio, it's fitting that the art closely connected to the building's original purpose remains here for you to gawk at, while you wait for your medical appointment. 
One of Callahan's minor masters. 
Pacific Tower is surrounded by a peaceful campus, a carefully manicured garden. It doesn't take a lot of effort to imagine convalescing sailors going for a stroll during recovery. 
Art Deco lanterns, with an almost Japanese simplicity. 
The smaller buildings on this campus were intended for officers, the Captain's Quarters, so to speak. They're built in the same style, with patterned brick and terracotta ornaments. 
The Captain's Quarters. 
Enter here!
It doesn't get more Deco than these chevron'ed posts at the entrance gate. 
So next time you zoom along the I-5, on your way to Seattle's Downtown or escaping the city for the mountains, take a closer look at Pacific Tower, perched on her hill, overlooking the car. It's worth it!

And if you want to see more Seattle Art Deco landmarks, check our article here. 

Getting there: 
All you have to do is get off the highway, and take your car up Beacon Hill. The exact address is 1200 12th Ave South, Seattle, WA 98144. 

Useful links:
Official website for Pacific Tower.
For a more detailed overview, check out the nitty-gritty at the Pacific Hospital Preservation & Development Authority's page.  


  1. My partner had a dental appointment in this building. This was the first time I've seen the Pacific Tower close-up - as you mention, I've only seen it from the highway. I was immediately struck by all the Art Deco elements, from the overall design to the handsome geometric details. A classic example of "they don't make 'em like they used to"! I was also curious about the smaller buildings with posts that labelled them as "quarters," so it makes sense that they once housed officers. Note that you can often find free parking nearby, as well as a panoramic view of the stadiums and Puget Sound.


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