Frank Nowell photographs of the Smith Tower construction, 1911-1914  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Photographer
Nowell, Frank H., 1864-1950
Title
Frank Nowell photographs of the Smith Tower construction
Dates
1911-1914 (inclusive)
Quantity
138 photographic prints in album (1 box) ; various sizes, mostly 8" x 10"
Collection Number
PH1023
Summary
Album of Frank Nowell photographs which chronicles the construction of L. C. Smith Tower from excavation to completion
Repository
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
98195-2900
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
speccoll@uw.edu
Access Restrictions

Entire collection can be viewed on the Libraries’ Digital Collections website. Permission of Visual Materials Curator required to view originals. Contact Special Collections for more information.

Additional Reference Guides
Languages
English


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Frank Hamilton Nowell was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on February 19, 1864. He was from a prominent New England family whose ancestor, Peter Nowell, had come to American in the 1600s from the Isle of Jersey. Frank's great grandfather served in the Revolutionary War and his grandfather lived in the Longfellow House in Cambridge for many years. His father, Thomas Shepard Nowell, was the first child christened in the Thomas Shepard Congregational Church (after which he was named) and was held by Oliver Wendell Holmes as he was christened. In 1885, Thomas Nowell went out to Juneau, Alaska to join two of his brothers who were already out there. Thomas started a mining business and his son, Frank Nowell joined him there in 1886. Frank brought six cows and a bull and ran a dairy farm for a year. Eventually he started working for his father. Frank took up photography as a hobby some time before 1894. (One man remembered being photographed by Frank when he first arrived in Alaska and walked off the steamboat at Juneau.) Frank and his wife, Elizabeth Helen Davis, were married in 1894 in Helena, Montana at her brother's home and Frank made photographs while in Montana. They moved to San Francisco where their daughter Dorothy was born and Frank traveled between California and Juneau in his work as a purchasing agent for his father's mining company.

In 1900 there was a large stampede of gold seekers to Nome, Alaska. Because it was located on the Bering Sea and only open to travel part of the year, supplies were hard to get and expensive so the Ames Mercantile Company decided to open a branch of their store in Nome. Nowell went to Nome in about July 1900 to run the Ames Mercantile store then later that year moved to the new town of Teller, Alaska to open a new store for the company. When his wife and daughter joined him in Teller, they brought the camera that he had left behind. By 1902, he began taking photographs of the Eskimos and reindeer herds at Cape Prince of Wales along with scenes in the Teller and Nome area. His Eskimo photographs became very popular and were eventually used in books and magazines about Alaska. In late 1903 or in 1904, he decided to leave the Mercantile business and become a full-time photographer. He built a tiny studio building in Nome, between the Golden Gate Hotel and the Post Office buildings

At the same time he was opening his photography studio in Nome, he also moved his wife and daughter to Seattle to live. He spent about nine years going back and forth between Nome and Seattle running his photography business. In Seattle, he was a member of the Alaska Club which was a group formed to support Alaskan commercial interests in the city. It was probably through his connections with the Alaska Club and with the Arctic Brotherhood that he was chosen as the official photographer for the AYPE. J.E. Chilberg, a member of the Alaska Club (and the president of the Miners and Merchants Bank in Nome), was elected the president of the AYPE. Nowell had photographed Chilberg's bank and Nome so Chilberg would likely have been acquainted with him from Nome and from the Alaska Club. Nowell's Alaska photographs were also featured in a large beautiful book Artwork of Seattle and Alaska, published in 1907 which may have impressed the AYPE officials.

Nowell photographed the opening day ceremonies and other pre-exposition activities such as the visiting delegations selecting the sites for their buildings, and the construction work. While the fair was open, he photographed the buildings, events, people, and activities on the grounds. His photographs were used in newspapers and magazines for pre-fair publicity and sold as souvenirs, made into postcards, used in guidebooks, etc. during the fair. He also sold copies of his Eskimo and Alaska photographs at the fair and won several awards for his work. In 1908, he took an extended trip through the Yukon and Alaska both photographing and collecting photographs from other photographers for the AYPE.

Shortly before the fair, he opened a photography studio in Seattle and he ran both the Nome and Seattle studios until about 1912 when he closed the Nome studio. During 1911 and 1912 he partnered with Orville Rognon (who had worked for Webster and Stevens for several years and then photographed for Nowell during the AYPE). In later years, the producers of the 1925 Charlie Chaplin movie, The Gold Rush, came to Nowell for photographs of cabins and snowdrifts to help them build authentic sets for the film. He retired from his studio in the late 1940s and died on October 19, 1950.

Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

In 1909, New York Tycoon Lyman Cornelius Smith announced plans to build an 18-story building in Seattle, the L.C. Smith Building; the original name of the Smith Tower. Smith was intrigued with the growth of Seattle and wanted to leave an impression on the growing Seattle skyline. L.C. Smith’s son, Burns Lyman Smith, was inspired by the skyscrapers he saw constructed in New York and insisted his father design a taller building. In 1910, L.C. Smith announced plans to increase the height of the Smith Tower to forty-two stories, or 467 feet. L.C. Smith passed away in late 1910 and B.L. Smith took over the plans and construction of the L.C. Smith Building. On November 1, 1911, the corner of 2nd Ave and Yessler way was cleared to make way for the construction of the L. C. Smith Building, which began soon after.

Gaggin and Gaggin Architects and Mithun Architects + Designers + Planners were two architecture firms that helped design the L.C. Smith Building and Frederic E. Rautman and A. E. Whitney Jr. were the contractors for the construction of the building. The E.E. Davis Company built the steel frame of the building. The final height of the building is estimated to be around 460-462 feet. After construction was completed, the building was opened on July 3, 1914 with over 1,500 people visiting the observation deck. On the next day, July 4, 1914, the L.C. Smith Building opened to the public with over 4,000 people visiting the observation deck. In 1929 B.L. Smith changed the name of the L.C. Smith Building to the Smith Tower for the sake of brevity. The Smith Tower changed ownership many times since the Smith family sold it ten years after the opening. Today, the Smith Tower is an office building housing various businesses.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Photographs made by Frank H. Nowell documenting the construction of L.C. Smith Tower from foundation to completed building, Seattle, Washington. (November 6, 1911 - March 7, 1914). The photographs were originally in an album which was likely made as a keepsake documenting the construction of the tower for the engineer (but the album had deteriorated and the photographs removed).

Other Descriptive InformationReturn to Top

Although all of the photos are stamped with either "Nowell & Rognon" or "Frank H. Nowell", it is likely that all of the photographs in the album were actually taken by Frank Nowell as they are consistent with the quality of his work and his numbering system The photos appearing early in the album are credited to "Nowell and Rognon". Frank Nowell was in the commercial photography business in partnership with Orville Rognon for two years overlapping with the construction of the L. C. Smith Tower. The latter photos in the album are stamped with "Frank Nowell".

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

 

Frank Nowell photographs of L.C. Smith Tower construction albumReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder item
1/1 1 1911
1/1 2 November 6, 1911
1/1 3 November 11, 1911
1/1 4 November 13, 1911
1/1 5 November 13, 1911
1/2 6 November 13, 1911
1/2 7 November 13, 1911
1/2 8 November 16, 1911
1/2 9 November 18, 1911
1/2 10 November 25, 1911
1/3 11
 Digging the foundation using heavy machinery
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
January 13, 1912
1/3 12
 Construction of the foundation
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
January 20, 1912
1/3 13 December 2, 1911
1/3 14 December 9, 1911
1/3 15
 Construction of the foundation
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
February 28, 1912
1/4 16
 Construction of the foundation
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
February 28, 1912
1/4 17 April 27, 1912
1/4 18 May 3, 1912
1/4 19 December 23, 1911
1/4 20 December 28, 1911
1/5 21 November 16, 1911
1/5 22 November 16, 1911
1/5 23
Construction of the foundation
May 3, 1912
1/5 24 May 4, 1912
1/5 25
 Construction of the foundation and stockpiling of materials
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
June 1, 1912
1/6 26
 Digging out and constructing the foundation
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
April 13, 1912
1/6 27 February 10, 1912
1/6 28
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/6 29
 Men digging trenches while constructing the foundation
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
January 23, 1912
1/6 30
 Men working on the construction of the foundation
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
January 23, 1912
1/7 31
 Construction of the foundation with heavy machinery
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
January 6, 1912
1/7 32
 Construction of the foundation with heavy machinery
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
January 13,1912
1/7 33
 Construction materials in alley next to the construction site
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
January 2, 1912
1/7 34
 Building supports in alley next to the construction site
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
January 2, 1912
1/7 35
 Building supports in alley next to the construction site
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
January 3, 1912
1/8 36
 Construction of the foundation
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
January 6, 1912
1/8 37
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/8 38
 View down the alley next to the construction site
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
January 2, 1912
1/8 39
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/8 40
 Construction of the foundation
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
August 17, 1912
1/9 41
 Construction of the foundation
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
August 24, 1912
1/9 42
 Stockpiles of steel beams at the base of the foundation
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
August 31, 1912
1/9 43
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/9 44
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/9 45
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/10 46
 Construction of the foundation, stockpiles of materials
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
May 25, 1912
1/10 47
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/10 48
 Construction of the foundation using heavy machinery
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
June 8, 1912
1/10 49
 Construction of the foundation using heavy machinery
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
June 15, 1912
1/10 50
 Construction of the foundation
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
June 22, 1912
1/11 51 June 29, 1912
1/11 52
 Construction of the foundation
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
July 6, 1912
1/11 53 No date
1/11 54
 Construction of the foundation using heavy machinery
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
May 11, 1912
1/11 55 July 27, 1912
1/12 56
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/12 57
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/12 58
 Construction of the foundation
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
September 28, 1912
1/12 59 September 7, 1912
1/12 60
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/13 61
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/13 62
 Construction of the first floor
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
October 12, 1912
1/13 63 October 19, 1912
1/13 64 October 26, 1912
1/13 65 October 23, 1912
1/14 66 October 23, 1912
1/14 67 November 2, 1912
1/14 68
 Construction of the eight floor
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
November 9, 1912
1/14 69 November 16, 1912
1/14 70
 Construction of the tenth and eleventh floors
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
November 23, 1912
1/15 71 November 30, 1912
1/15 72
 Construction of the fourteenth and fifteenth floors
Nowell & Rognon, Seattle (photographer)
December 7, 1912
1/15 73
 Construction of the seventeenth floor
Frank H. Nowell, Seattle (photographer)
December 28, 1912
1/15 74 January 2, 1913
1/15 75
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/16 76
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/16 77 December 30, 1911
1/16 78
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/16 79 December 16, 1911
1/16 80 December 23, 1911
1/17 81 January 27, 1912
1/17 82 February 3, 1912
1/17 83
 Construction of the sixteenth floor
Frank H. Nowell, Seattle (photographer)
December 14, 1912
1/17 84
 Construction of the seventeenth and eighteenth floors
Frank H. Nowell, Seattle (photographer)
December 21, 1912
1/17 85
 Ground level view of the first floor, foundation, and materials
Frank H. Nowell, Seattle (photographer)
January 2, 1913
1/18 86
 Close up of concrete panels and wooden framework
Frank H. Nowell, Seattle (photographer)
January 6, 1913
1/18 87
 Close up of concrete panels
Frank H. Nowell, Seattle (photographer)
January 6, 1913
1/18 88
 Close up of concrete panels amidst other construction materials
Frank H. Nowell, Seattle (photographer)
January 6, 1913
1/18 89
 Construction of the twentieth floor
Frank H. Nowell, Seattle (photographer)
January 4, 1912
1/18 90
 Construction of the twenty-first and twenty-second floors
Frank H. Nowell, Seattle (photographer)
January 11, 1913
1/19 91
 Construction of the twenty-second and twenty-third floors
Frank H. Nowell, Seattle (photographer)
January 17, 1913
1/19 92
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/19 93
 Close up of facade panels prior to putting them into place
Frank H. Nowell, Seattle (photographer)
January 27, 1913
1/19 94 January 27, 1913
1/19 95 January 27, 1913
1/20 96 January 27, 1913
1/20 97
 Facade panels with handwritten notes for each
Frank H. Nowell, Seattle (photographer)
February 1, 1913
1/20 98 February 8, 1913
1/20 99
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/20 100 March 15, 1913
1/21 101 February 22, 1913
1/21 102 February 15, 1913
1/21 103 March 22, 1913
1/21 104 1913
1/21 105 April 5, 1913
1/22 106 April 12, 1913
1/22 107 May 3, 1913
1/22 108 May 10, 1913
1/22 109 May 17, 1913
1/22 110
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/23 111 May 31, 1913
1/23 112 March 8, 1913
1/23 113 August 2, 1913
1/23 114 July 19, 1913
1/23 115 April 26, 1913
1/24 116 April 19, 1913
1/24 117 July 12, 1913
1/24 118 July 12, 1913
1/24 119 June 6, 1913
1/24 120 June 28, 1913
1/25 121
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/25 122 June 14, 1913
1/25 123 August 9, 1913
1/25 124 August 12, 1913
1/25 125 August 16, 1913
1/26 126 August 23, 1913
1/26 127 August 23, 1913
1/26 128 August 30, 1913
1/26 129 August 30, 1913
1/26 130 September 6, 1913
1/27 131 September 6, 1913
1/27 132 September 13, 1913
1/27 133 September 13, 1913
1/27 134 September 20, 1913
1/27 135 September 20, 1913
1/28 136 September 27, 1913
1/28 137 October 4, 1913
1/28 138 October 11, 1913
1/28 139 October 18, 1913
1/28 140 October 25, 1913
1/28 141 November 1, 1913
1/29 142 November 8, 1913
1/29 143 November 15, 1913
1/29 144 November 22, 1913
1/29 145 November 29, 1913
1/30 146 December 6, 1913
1/30 147 December 13, 1913
1/30 148 December 20, 1913
1/30 149
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/30 150 January 31, 1914
1/31 151 January 3, 1914
1/31 152 December 27, 1913
1/31 153 January 17, 1914
1/31 154 January 10, 1914
1/31 155 February 14, 1914
1/32 156 February 7, 1914
1/32 157
[Photo missing when album was donated]
1/32 158
 View looking north of a complete Smith Tower
Frank H. Nowell, Seattle (photographer)
March 7, 1914

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Architecture--Washington (State)--Seattle--Photographs
  • Photographs--Specimens
  • Skyscrapers--Washington (State)--Seattle--Photographs
  • Personal Names :
  • Nowell, Frank H., 1864-1950--Photographs (photographer)
  • Corporate Names :
  • Smith Tower (Seattle, Wash.)--Photographs
  • Geographical Names :
  • Pioneer Square (Seattle, Wash.)--Buildings, structures, etc.--Photographs
  • Seattle (Wash.)--Buildings, structures, etc.--Photographs
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Photographs

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)