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Seattle First National Bank building is dedicated on March 28, 1969.

HistoryLink.org Essay 1197 : Printer-Friendly Format

On March 28, 1969, the Seattle First (a.k.a. Sea-First and Seafirst) National Bank dedicates its new 50-story headquarters at 1001 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle. The structure is (in 1969) the largest building in Seattle and the "tallest west of the Mississippi." The building is initially known as the Seafirst Building, though Seattleites sometimes refer to it as "the box the Space Needle came in." The name will later be changed to 1001 4th Avenue Plaza and then to Safeco Plaza.

Seattle First moved its headquarters to the new building, which provides 660,000 square feet of office space, from the Dexter-Horton Building on 2nd Avenue and Cherry (710 2nd Avenue). The new tower stood as a symbol of Seafirst's growth. It was Seattle's tallest building from 1969 until 1985, when the Columbia Tower bypassed it. It is 630 feet (192.03 meters) high. The architects were NBBJ (Naramore, Bain, Brady, and Johanson).

In 1982, Seafirst, "near collapse," was acquired by Bank of America. On September 30, 1982, the Seafirst Building was sold to JMB Realty of Chicago for $123.37 million. In 1986, the building was renamed 1001 4th Avenue Plaza -- while Seafirst moved into the new Columbia Center. Bank of America later retired the Seafirst name.

The building name changed again, to Safeco Plaza, after local insurance company Safeco sold its 22-story tower in the University District (the tallest building in Seattle outside downtown) to the University of Washington in 2006 and moved its headquarters to the downtown building.  

Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 267; The Seattle Times, September 30, 1983, p. 1; Ibid., May 12, 1986, p. D-7; Shelby Scates, Firstbank: The Story of the Seattle First National Bank (Seattle: North Pacific Bank Note Co., 1970); "1001 Fourth Avenue Plaza," (www.skyscrapers.com); Eric Pryne, "Safeco Has Big Impact on Downtown Seattle Office Space," The Seattle Times, April 23, 2008 (www.seattletimes.com); Brier Dudley, "Tech Buzz Surrounds Tower Sale," Ibid., August 21, 2006.
Note: This essay was revised on May 15, 2001, corrected on November 20, 2005, and updated on April 2, 2015.

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Architectural rendering of the Seattle First National Bank Building (NBBJ, 1969)

SeaFirst Tower (NBBJ, 1969), October 2001
HistoryLink.org Photo by Priscilla Long

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