The Exchange Building

{Downtown}

The Exchange Building is one of Seattle's outstanding Art Deco skyscrapers, with a magnificent gilded lobby on Second Avenue. Art Deco was a European-influenced modernistic style that became particularly popular for skyscrapers in the late 1920s.

Their defining characteristics were setbacks on the upper stories and bold ornamentation with stylized natural and geometric forms. As its name indicates, this tower was designed to house commodities and stock exchanges. Both the exterior and the interior have standard Art Deco decorative motifs combined with specialized forms symbolizing Washington commodities--stylized wheat sheaves, fruit and flowers. Especially notable are the stained glass windows at the entry with brightly-colored wheat sheaves.

The building was completed in 1931, shortly after the Great Depression began, and it ended up being used as an ordinary office building. At that time it was the largest reinforced concrete building in the world. It is clad with "Romanite," a cast concrete product that is colored to look like sandstone.

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The Exchange Building, 1930
The Exchange Building, photo by Joe Mabel

About us

This site is dedicated to the history of Seattle's downtown and waterfront, especially the State Route 99 / Alaskan Way Viaduct corridor. It was developed by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration as an educational resource and as part of a Memorandum of Agreement for Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (pdf 1mb).

Copyright 2011 Washington State Department of Transportation