The Norton Building


Completed in 1958, the Norton Building was the first major building constructed in downtown Seattle since the completion of the neighboring Exchange Building in 1929. This 19-story glass tower was Seattle's first significant example of the International Style, an architectural style that defined the skyscraper across the world for several decades.

The architect was Skidmore Owings and Merrill (San Francisco office), the firm most connected with the International Style throughout the United States. The Norton Building was the first tall building in the country to use long-span pre-stressed concrete beams, allowing open floor spans of up to 70 feet with no interior structural columns.

The exterior is a glass curtain wall with alternating bands of clear and blue-gray glass, installed in pre-fabricated units. The aluminum vertical elements (mullions) between the window bays and at the corners extend to the top of the building, emphasizing its height. The tower sits on a four-story base of polished black granite with an entry courtyard (redesigned in 1987) on the east side.

To learn more about this building, visit the City of Seattle's historical sites page.

Listen to a podcast from the Downtown Walking Tour.

Second Avenue and Columbia Street (744kb mp3)

Find this building on our walking tour map. (680kb pdf)

Norton 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