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Ivar Haglund buys Seattle's Smith Tower on May 19, 1976.

HistoryLink.org Essay 2508 : Printer-Friendly Format

On May 19, 1976, Ivar Haglund (1905-1985), the restaurateur famed for his escapades, folksinging, storytelling, and waterfront clam restaurant, buys Seattle's Smith Tower for $1.8 million. He buys it because he likes it. As a child in 1913 he had seen the building under construction. Smith Tower was for many years the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

The building had a flagpole on top that was little used because of the expense of replacing wind-damaged flags. Kite shop owners Tom Deen and Bill Hull sold Haglund a 16-foot windsock from Japan where such banners were flown for good luck. Soon after "The Rainbow Salmon" as Ivar called it, was unfurled on September 29, 1977, the City of Seattle notified him that it violated municipal code. This launched a good-natured dispute between Haglund and the City, documented almost entirely in verse. After an outpouring of public support for Haglund and a poetic public hearing, the City granted a variance for the windsock.

Although he had no intention of making money on the project, Haglund sold the building on January 18, 1985, for $5.5 million. Ivar Haglund died less than two weeks later. In his memory the windsock was flown at half-mast.

Dave Stephens, Ivar: The Life and Times of Ivar Haglund (Seattle: Dunhill Publishing, 1986), 129-139.

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Ivar Haglund's salmon windsock flying on Smith Tower, hoisted September 1977
Courtesy Paul Dorpat

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