Smashing apartment high atop Seattle's Smith Tower

[Post removed due to legal demand of Stuart Isett, photographer]

Please remove my copyrighted images from your blog, thanks. If they are not removed asap I will invoice $100 per image per month you use my material:


Stuart Isett

Stuart Isett |
photographer |
Seattle, USA |


  1. and this being Seattle, I note the obligatory Chihully chandelier. Lovely cobalt blue.
    Smith Tower was once the tallest building west of the Missisip. Still had elevator operators running the ancient lifts when I was a bike messenger downtown back in the 80s- 90s.
    All said – that is one bitchin’ apartment there!

    1. I worked in the Smith Tower until my employer (Disney) moved out of the building – supposedly the cost of modernizing the Tower’s elevators, to the point where human elevator operators are no longer required, is so prohibitively expensive that it will never, ever happen.

  2. I was out there this spring, and had an afternoon free. Did the tourist thing and went to the top of the tower. While I was there, I noticed the little bike in the “back hall” as it were, and smiled to think that some little kid had the opportunity to live there.

    They put in a lot of work to kick it into shape.

    I hope that they get to keep it for a good long time, and aren’t kicked out by some developer who’ll rent it out to someone who’ll visit it three times a year – as one of their nine multi-million dollar homes.


  3. 462 feet up in a 1914 building? Hope there is some rebar in there with the concrete… otherwise it might be smashing in the wrong way when the big one hits.

  4. “Naomi, 3, seemed content to ride the rubber horse that zips along a climbing rope, from the kitchen to the living room.”

    Oh, that’s what it is.


  5. “supposedly the cost of modernizing the Tower’s elevators, to the point where human elevator operators are no longer required, is so prohibitively expensive that it will never, ever happen”


  6. I had heard from a friend who knows Petra years ago of this apartment, but I almost didn’t believe him. It sounded too impossibly great.

    I love that she is not a spoiled rich person, but someone who is clever, gives of her time, and is enjoying the hell out of the place.

    Note, @papermeister, that the Chihuly was a gift–he’s an old family friend–not a sign of privilege.

  7. Staple article #327 (category: lifestyle)
    “Smug family lives in awesome home you’ll never be able to afford.”

    Sigh. Good for them.

  8. Okay, I caught a whiff of smug as well, but it’s worth the read. Luck played a role and they put a lot of work into it. If you really want an odd, cool place to live and don’t mind relocating to odd places, there are plenty of funky pads left within the reach of the average person.

  9. I would say that the apartment must be horribly freezing in winter and hell in summer. But, well, if you are horribly rich I imagine you can pay for the extra heating and cooling (and do your part in screwing the planet).The gratings and chicken wire in the windows must hurt their eyes when they try to look at the view. Very very bad feng shui. Poor fashion victims.Am I just envious?

  10. Are there any other Swedes here who is kinda laughing at this article – wondering when they will “throw crisp vegetables on their tepanjaki grill plate”? :D

  11. I’m going to build one of those rubber horses in our back yard – that thing is awesome. My kid would go completely nuts for it too. Maybe I’ll use cable outside though.

    The apartment is good too, but since there is nothing more than 2 stories tall in my town, I’ll just have to struggle on with our little house.

    But rubber horse on a cable. That is the shiznit. Dang.

    1. You can get the rubber horse swing from any number of sources. At my grandmother’s house we have a particularly nice one (made from a recycled tire) hung from a giant tree like a traditional tire swing. My 3yo LOVES it. But the zipline idea is pretty darn good, too.

  12. I’m going to build one of those rubber horses in our back yard – that thing is awesome. My kid would go completely nuts for it too. Maybe I’ll use cable outside though.

    The apartment is good too, but since there is nothing more than 2 stories tall in my town, I’ll just have to struggle on with our little house.

    But rubber horse on a cable. That is the shiznit. Dang.

  13. Clearly not an ordinary family, both in economic and cultural terms, but still, you have to give it to them: refurbishing that thing must have been hell, and since they don’t actually own the place, it wasn’t done for the love of the almighty buck. If anything, there is a feeling they’ll eventually get kicked out, with little left to show for their efforts.

    I wonder how those kids will grow up though: after a few years up there, any other flat will feel incredibly boring to them.

  14. I recall a few wonderful, drunken climbs from events at the reception hall below to take in the view from the pyramid, back before they got the idea to sell/rent(?) it to someone.

  15. Color me envious; that’s a Nice Space. (He says, having spent the past several weekends working on his own.)

  16. went to a party there, she’s definitely a piece of work, clever, indeed. it is a beautiful space..

  17. went to a party there, its is a beautiful space….I had a top floor pad in Seattle downtown for 3 yrs, funky salon, didn’t have the window space but I did have the terraces atop to watch WTO, the battle in Seattle in 1999, as it went from downtown to capital hill, after gassing father and sister, innocently living and walking around doing chores downtown… be honest, there’s some really cool top floor pads in seattle…but this is unique, with the windows…

  18. Note the ceiling mount industrial heater, high ceilings; total lack of insulation. This place is probably awesome in early spring and fall, but miserably hot in the summer and brutally cold in the winter. This would make an excellent bar/club for special events, though.

  19. Everyone talking about brutal heat, bitter cold, and raging storms hitting this place know nothing of Seattle weather.

    1. Yeah, but this is at the top of the Smith Tower. I daresay the outside environment is different than that of an apartment in, say, Queen Anne. And while we may not have very hard-core winters compared to other regions, it certainly gets chilly — and temperatures are getting more unpredictable due to climate change (witness this year’s cool summer and often-cold fall).

    2. My main concern is that there’s no insulation whatsoever. It’s sort of like living in a very tall wooden packing crate. All the energy spent heating the top 30′ of that apartment is going to be wasted with the goal of heating the bottom 6′. With zero insulation at the top they’ll be bleeding off energy as fast as they can generate it, and that’s assuming there’s no wind blowing at 200+’ in the air that day. Summers are still going to be super hot up there, no shade on all sides, and it’s doubtful that those windows open up. I grew up about 20 miles south of there actually, and fondly remember opening all the doors and windows in the house to keep it from getting hot in there. At least we had shade.

      Not to mention: poor kid! “I didn’t have a yard to grow up in, my parents chose bragging rights to their friends over my childhood”. What a miserable place to grow up. Maybe they named their kid “Rapunzel”.

      1. Not to mention: poor kid! “I didn’t have a yard to grow up in, my parents chose bragging rights to their friends over my childhood”. What a miserable place to grow up. Maybe they named their kid “Rapunzel”.

        That’s true of any tall apartment building. We only live in a 4-floor apartment building (on the top floor), but my daughter doesn’t have our own yard to grow up in either. The building has a courtyard, and recently both she and I have felt comfortable with her going out to play on her own. In a lot of places in the world, having a house with a yard is a luxury. We certainly can’t afford it where we live.

    1. What a place to watch a blizzard from, indeed…It would be like living in the inside of a snowglobe.

  20. Okay, I’ll bite: If she took the surname Lahaie (which appears to be the case), why doesn’t this post simply say “the Lahaie household,” and why does the article refer to her as “Ms. Franklin”? Is this a new thing? If she wants to keep her birth name (Franklin, I guess?), more power to her. But this is just downright confusing.

    Reframed as a practical question: How would one know, looking at the name Petra Franklin Lahaie, to refer to her by Franklin?

  21. What happens when somebody breaks a leg? Does the whole family have to move to Grandma’s for a couple of months?

  22. Just to echo spacemonkey, those folks talking about watching blizzards: that doesn’t happen in Seattle. A little snow once in a while maybe, but blizzard? That said, hadlock is probably right that heating/cooling the space is probably near impossible. Our house in the Seattle area was very open with high ceilings, by the time you got the first floor warm the upstairs loft was unbearably hot. And we had insulation

  23. I’ve been up there many times, including the inside of the bubble on top – but it was before the ’97 renovation. I worked there as an elevator operator from around ’93 to ’96. The article is wrong in saying that the apartment had been vacant for ten years. The building’s electrician lived there the whole time I was there. At the time, the giant metal water tank was still up there. The glass bubble and flagpole were added as an afterthought to make the building higher (when height was a real competition). Consequently, a tunnel-like hole was roughly hewn up through the concrete. The hole is so small you have to put your arms up into it first to climb up the rungs into the bubble… I could literally write a book about the crazy experiences I had while working there…

  24. Proof positive that no matter how amazing something is, people will spend most of their time bitching about it somehow. This is really cool.

    Kids don’t *need* their own private yard any more than they need their own arboretum, or private koi pond, or other luxury that has yet to be considered required. Saying someone chose bragging rights over their child for not having a yard is not only idiotically simple minded but is also rude. A kid could have an amazing, rich childhood growing up in a place like this.

    I hope more people start rehabbing the forgotten and neglected spaces in their towns. I’ve known a few people that lived in really oddball apartments, one carved out of a defunct industrial scale bakery, another carved out of a turn of the century machine shop. I used to live in an old farm implement warehouse, it was a ton of fun. All three places have since been gentrified in one way or another, but we all have great memories of at least a few years spent there.

    @markjamesmurphy: Think about it, man; it’s been 14 years since 1996. It’s entirely possible that the electrician lived there for a couple more years after you left AND that the place sat vacant for a decade. I know, that’s the sort of thing that makes you feel old; I have it happen to me all the time. Sigh.

  25. Oh, crap. Sorry @markjamesmurphy, I did not read the entire article before saying it could have been vacant for 10 years after 1996. They’re referring to it being vacant for 10 years as of 1997. Whoops!

    1. That guy wants some control over how the fruits of his labor are distributed — the cad! How dare that miserable bastard not want to give away his work, and *politely* (please and thank you) request BB not do so; doesn’t he know Information Wants To Be Freeâ„¢? Whosoever defies the holy law of Mandatory Generosity will suffer the full wrath of the chattering class!

      srsly people, the creative commons etc. is fine as an opt-in system, but are we actually suggesting it’s good ok to attack people who refuse to yield their work to commercial content publishers?

      Cory, it seems kinda like you published this letter out of spite / the reason mentioned in my previous paragraph. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so I’ll ask why did you decide to do this rather post a note like “the photog politely requested I not publish his work?” Why post the email?

      P.S. thanks for the CC audio version of Eastern Standard Tribe! I enjoyed it and am grateful that you *ahem* chose to share it.

      1. Actually, the article as posted by BoingBoing was pretty much Fair Use. One photo (IIRC), a summary, and a link to the Times article, which I clicked through to read. If nothing else, it drove traffic to NYT and Stu’s photos.

        Yes, CC is a fine opt-in system, and no, it’s not right to expect everyone to opt in. And of course it’s Stu’s right to be douchery about how his work is used. But I’ll still be unstinting in my criticism of his attitude, since it shows a lack of understanding about how the World works.

  26. Wow, those were great photos (I clicked through to the NYTimes article and read the whole thing). Too bad Stu is a douchebag. Here’s a buck, Stu- go to hell.

  27. Stu seems like kind of a retard. I haven’t seen the photos, and while I’m somewhat interested in them, I’m not going to bother to hunt them down. So Stu’s brand is diminished. Now I’ll simply remember Stuart Isett as an asshole, and not any kind of photographer at all.

    He should have written his letter requesting more prominent accreditation, maybe a promotional banner or something, not “take my photos down or I’ll charge you”

  28. I call bullshit. Boing Boing runs advertising and therefore profits from the content on the site, including Stu’s photos, and last I heard, BB doesn’t share their profits with the people providing them with content.

    Maybe Stu would be better off taking the free exposure, maybe he wouldn’t but either way it’s his decision and he doesn’t deserve insults from people unwilling to compensate him for his work, especially when he was perfectly polite in his response.

    1. Well, he certainly has issues with fair use of his photos. From

      Warning: wants freebies

      Warning, is out mining for free pix of Nobel Laureates for their website. They asked for my Aung San Suu Kyi images, pointing out how they were a lowly ‘non-profit’. I sent them my rates, plus a memo asking if they also asked for free lunch when they ate at the Swedish Deli, plus this link:
      21 Oct 2009 18:10 | 26 replies

      Hey, Stuart, if you’re worried about starving in your old age, if you’re ever down and out and in my vicinity, I’ll treat you to a meal & beer. But you’ll have to listen to a lecture on fair use while you eat.

  29. Cory: shame on you for spitefully transmitting this full email in front of your full readership as this photog protects his livelihood in a professional manor. Just b/c a photographer may not conduct biz the way you might, doesn’t make it wrong or unethical. IMO the bad form is on you, rather than him.

  30. @eyeruh

    Boingboing runs advertising, which is sold because it links interested people to interesting stories. They don’t need to share their profits with Stu, because they’re not making money off his pictures—they just happen to be part of the story, and a means of enticing people to view his work. It would be different if BB ripped off all the photos. Plus, the original story includes a link to the NY Times that has the full story and all the pictures, who *do* make money off the story, and who *do* pay Stu. Fewer eyeballs = fewer dollars for Stu.

    Can you imagine walking into a paint store and asking for paint samples, only to be told that if you want them, you’ll have to buy a bucket of paint? The store makes no money giving away samples, but it makes its money back (often many times over) when they have a sold a bucket of paint.

    Yes, Stu reserves the right to be an ass, but that doesn’t mean others can’t ridicule him because of it just like I’m free to tell everyone not to visit your paint store because your customer service stinks.

    1. Of course, they’re making money off of his photos–the stories generate pageviews and the pageviews generate income. I’m not saying Stu is making a smart decision but I am saying that it’s his decision to make and he doesn’t deserve to be called an ass because he sees things differently than you.

  31. @elk

    Would you rather they just “disappeared” the story? There’s no commentary by Cory, and no editorializing. They took it down because of the letter, which is (I assume) faithfully reproduced verbatim.

    Where do you get “spitefully” from?

  32. Lol I think putting his email up is perfectly legit and cool and exactly how this should be handled. There’s no reason to say anything but his own words, he can literally speak for himself. That way, there are absolutely no misunderstandings, and everybody knows exactly where they stand.

    Stu is a jerk who doesn’t appreciate free publicity and so he’ll be remembered for that instead of his photos, which is as it should be.

  33. The letter we received was obviously business correspondence that instructed us to do something specific on our site. It wasn’t private material. It was posted to explain why we have unpublished a post.

    Angry at us for publishing a take-down notice we received? It’s futile, so you may as well chill out.

  34. “BB is lucky NYT didnt come after them.”

    Silly! The New York Times had no problem with it (we asked.) But the NYT wasn’t (in this case) the actual proprietor of the image. So we took it down when asked by the photographer. There’s not a lot of point to the post without it, unfortunately.

  35. BoingBoing isn’t attacking the guy, just regular random readers are. I’m just a viewer passing by. If I think he’s a douche, then that’s the opinion of the random public based on his own actions. Look, if someone objects to fair use with a takedown notice, replacing the fair use content with the takedown notice is exactly what should be done. When you don’t want someone doing something, you post a sign. Well, Stuart got what he wanted and a sign was put up stating exactly why. This is exactly what must happen.

    My opinion of it is my own, and I can say what I like.

  36. I see nothing wrong with the photographer asking that the picture be removed, and with BB posting his request.

    I think the photographer is an idiot, but that’s his right.

    I also think that BB could push the issue, if they wanted to do so, by posting a smaller or quality-degraded picture instead. That would make this case fall much more solidly under Fair Use.

    One could argue that what BB posted was only a small excerpt of the complete article, so Fair Use should apply either way. I think that argument might hold with respect to the NYT article itself, but from the photographer’s point of view, each photograph is a work of art in itself, so reposting just one photograph is essentially reposting an entire work of art. So how do you “excerpt” a photograph? I think that showing just a thumbnail photograph that’s only good for making you want to see the full-size version should be considered Fair Use.

    Of course, that is *IF* BB really felt like taking this to the courts, and spend their time and money of litigation, as opposed to bringing us more yummy interwebs goodness…

  37. The way it was handled was fine, it served to comply with the request, and was respectful of readers in that it provided an explanation as to why it went down.

    It’s not the most friendly to the photographer, but not that unreasonable of a response either. The photographer was not exactly friendly by only offering a $36,500 licence per picture per year as an alternative. If he had offered to licence it at a reasonable rate, then they might not have had to tear it down in the first place

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