Seattle Now & Then: Our first April Fool’s Quiz

(Published in the Seattle Times online on March 28, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on March 25, 2021 )

Then you see it, now you don’t — our first April Fool’s quiz
By Jean Sherrard

(For those visiting this blog following The Seattle Times link, we offer extra tomfoolery! Perhaps you’ve discovered the editing error in the print edition of the magazine. If so, add a fourth category to our grading rubric: consider yerself a Queen City Queen/King!)

We at “Now & Then” admit that we can be lured into April folly any old day of the year. While fishing the currents of popular history, we occasionally pull in old boots and dogfish. This year, we extend the opportunity to our dear readers to troll along.

Our “Then” photo, looking north at Seattle’s downtown business district, is a revelation. Fearless photographer Frank H. Nowell arranged for an early ride up to the unfinished (and unwalled) 35th-floor observation deck of the famed, pointed Smith Tower. In 1913, one year before the tower opened, Nowell captured this early panorama from the loftiest human-made structure on the West Coast.

Following in his footsteps 108 years later, I repeated the panorama (“Now 1”) and made several telling discoveries — of alteration, misinformation and exaggeration — ideal for an April Fool’s multiple-choice challenge in which we peel back a layer or two of the Smith Tower’s terra-cotta clad onion.

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: This 1913 view is from the Smith Tower’s unfinished 35th-floor observation deck. (Frank Nowell)
NOW 1: This “Goldilocks” view (not too high or too low — just right!) from the Smith Tower’s 35th-floor observation deck has lured generations of photographers. (Jean Sherrard)

Question 1

In our primary pair of photos, several decades of growth have obscured the northern prospect. Which of the following can still be seen?

A: The Central Building

B: Queen Anne High School

C: Lake Union

D: The Rainier Club

E: St. James Cathedral

NOW 2: These views looking north along the Second Avenue canyon were taken in 2018 and 2021. In the earlier photo (left), the Needle’s saucer is scaffolded for renovation. (Jean Sherrard)

Question 2

Our second pair of photos reveals a more recent switcheroo. In a view north along the Second Avenue canyon, the Space Needle has seemingly disappeared. Where has it gone?

A: Magician David Copperfield followed up his Statue of Liberty vanishing act.

B: The Space Needle was returned to the box it came in.

C: Yet another condominium joined the fray.

D: Amazon created a new pop-up Seattle headquarters.

E: Regraded Denny Hill re-emerged to assume its rightful place.

NOW3: Text of a plaque installed at the Smith Tower’s entrance in 1989 is not entirely accurate. It reads: “Seattle’s first skyscraper opened on July 4, 1914. The 42-story Smith Tower was the tallest building outside of New York City and Seattle’s tallest for nearly fifty years. It was built by Lyman Smith of Smith-Corona and Smith & Wesson fame, from Syracuse, New York. Sheathed entirely in terra cotta, the building was designed by the Syracuse firm of Gaggin & Gaggin. In a race to construct Seattle’s tallest building, Smith also hoped to anchor the “Second Avenue Canyon” area as the center of downtown. He died before the tower was completed.” (Jean Sherrard)

Question 3

At the Smith Tower’s front entrance, a brass plaque has misinformed passersby since 1989. Which of the following statements are not true:

A: Lyman Cornelius Smith was from Syracuse, New York.

B: The Smith Tower is 42 stories tall.

C: Smith was a founding partner of Smith & Wesson.

D: L.C. accumulated much of his wealth manufacturing typewriters.

E: In 1914, Smith Tower was the tallest building outside of New York City.

(scroll down for the correct answers and a grading rubric)



(keep going)



(a bit further)



(Burma Shave!)




1: A, D and E

2: C

3: B (even a generous observer counts no more than 38 stories)
C (Horace Smith founded Smith & Wesson) and
E (at 495 feet, Cincinnati’s Union Central Tower was 30 feet taller).

The Rubric

One correct answer: You’re a Mercer Mess
Two correct answers: You’re a Pike Pundit
Three correct answers: You’ve attained Seattle Chill


For a spectacular 360 degree view from Smith Tower’s 35th floor Observation Deck (along with Jean’s dulcet narration), click on through.

5 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Our first April Fool’s Quiz”

  1. Sadly it appears you have lost your way. What direction is MIS-stated in your Seattle Times story but corrected here?
    A. West
    B. North
    C. East
    D. South

  2. Paul, I hope you will find the website I built interesting. lets users place history on a timeline at the locations where it happened. Such as those 700 old photos of old Seattle you purchased. My hope is to save our paper photos before they are almost all discarded! If any questions you can reach me at

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