The Norton Building: A Place We’re Proud to Call Home

LNWM | In the Community | October 30, 2019

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Norton Building, where we come to work every day, and which was the first modern skyscraper built in Seattle, following the Depression and World War II. To this day, the building continues to be filled with light and wonderful top-floor views of Mount Rainier and Elliott Bay. Laird Norton Trust Co. started operating in this building in 1967, and despite growing tremendously over the next 50 years to become what is now Laird Norton Wealth Management, the iconic building we work in still feels very much like home.

On October 30, 1959, the first tenants moved into the 17-story Norton Building, walking into the city’s earliest aluminum and glass “curtain-wall” structure, as it stood between a great example of art deco (The Exchange Building built in 1930) and classical architecture (now Key Bank). A designated landmark, the Norton Building is widely recognized as the finest local example of the International Style, due to its use of modern materials and construction techniques that allowed for efficiency, flexibility and elegance.

The building was one of the real estate ventures of Norton Clapp, a member of our founding families (the Lairds and Nortons), now into their seventh generation as successful business owners. It was named in honor of Matthew G. Norton, Mr. Clapp’s grandfather. Norton Clapp, by the way, did not stop there. He went on to make possible the Space Needle and many other civic ventures.

We often refer to the building we work in as “iconic,” and this article in the Seattle Times shows why. In that article, Seattle architect Susan Boyle is quoted as saying this about the structure: “[It] embodies all that was progressive in midcentury postwar architectural design: functionality combined with beauty, a faith in technology and new materials, use of efficient construction systems and an optimism about the future of Seattle as an urbane urban place.” Certainly, that optimism proved to be warranted.

Another point of interest as we come to work each day is the sculpture of a large bird in the front courtyard, created by local artist Philip McCracken. He is considered part of the famous “Northwest Mystics” associated with the University of Washington Art Faculty, and his works are in the Smithsonian and the Chicago Institute of Art, among other collections.