United Shopping Tower

United Shopping Tower
  1. About the United Shopping Tower in Seattle
    1. Building Catalogations
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectureal style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The United Shopping Tower is a Neogothic skyscraper designed in 1928 by Henry Bittman and built between 1929 and 1929 in Seattle, WA.

United Shopping Tower is not the only name you might know this building by though. It is common for companies to want to attach their names to iconic buildings when they move in, or for the general public to come up with nicknames, and this one is no exception. The building has changed names several times over the years, and is also known as:

  • Northwestern Mutual Insurance Building between 1932 and 1976.
  • Olympic Savings Tower between 1980 and 1993.
  • Olympic Tower.

Its precise street address is 217 Pine Street, Seattle, WA. You can also find it on the map here.

The United Shopping Tower is a structure of significant importance both for the city of Seattle and the United States as a nation. The building embodies the distinctive characteristic features of the time in which it was built and the Neogothic style. Because of that, the United Shopping Tower was officially declared as a national landmark on May 11th 1987, and was included in the National Register of Historic Places on August 8th 1980.

At the time of its completion in 1929 the United Shopping Tower incorporated solutions that were quite advanced at the time, these included a rooftop garden and the idea of a vertical shopping mall.

The building has been restored 5 times over the years to ensure its conservation and adaptation to the pass of time. The main restoration works happened in 1933, 1939, 1941, 1950 and 1975.

Building's timeline

Design completed
Construction completed
Northwestern Mutual Insurance Building
Olympic Savings Tower
Declared NL
years ago
  1. 1932 to 1933 - The lobby was remodeled and a sprinkler system was installed.
  2. 1939 - 670m2 were added to the third floor of building. The architect in charge was Henry Bittman.
  3. 1941 - An addition was amde to the west die of the building.
  4. 1950 - The lobby was shortened to create more commercial space.
  5. 1974 to 1975 - The building underwhent an extensive interior and exterior renovation.

Architect and team

Henry Bittman was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design.

Henry Bittman was in charge of the architectural design, however, architecture is a complex discipline, which usually involves many professionals from different fields, without whom this building would have not been possible. We will surely be leaving out a lot of names here, but here is a list of the people we do know also played their part in making the United Shopping Tower a reality:

  • Hendrickson & Alstrom as the Main Contractor
  • Otis as the company in charge of the elevators system
  • Seattle Drumheller and Ehrlichman and White as the Main Developer
  • A. Weisenborn Decorating Company in charge of Interior Design

Architectural Style

The United Shopping Tower can be categorized as a Neogothic building.

The Neo-Gothic style, also known as Gothic Revival, emerged in the United States during the late 19th century, taking inspiration from the Gothic architecture found in Europe from centuries prior.

The Gothic Revival movement took elements characteristic of the Gothic buildings, such as pointed architect, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses, and applied them to newer buildings, even those belonging to typologies that did not exist during the original Gothic period, such as skyscrapers.

Neg-Gothic buildings usually feature pinnacles, gargoyles and other decorative elements that emphasize the verticality of the structure, and include stonework that features the craftsmanship of skilled artisans of the time.

The United Shopping Tower was completed in 1929. These were the late days of the Neogothic movement, which had been around for almost 200 years at the time.

Art-deco would soon take over US architecture, and therefore, even though Henry Bittman didn't venture into what was cutting edge in terms of style at the time, and took instead a more conservative approach to the design of the United Shopping Tower, it is possible that the design already started showing some traits that would later become characteristic of the art-deco movement.

Spaces & Uses

It has a total of 14 floors, 13 above ground and 1 basements, served by 2 elevators

The building sits on a 99,469 sqf (9,241m2) lot.It has a built-up area of 99,469 sqf (9,241m2) offering 76,800 sqf (7,135m2) of usable space.

In regards to parking space, the building has a total of 30 spots available, which roughly equals 2 spots per floor (above ground), or one parking spot per every 2,562 sqf (238m2) of usable space.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1929, the United Shopping Tower has mainly been used as Commercial space.

Materials & Structure

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features large windows, with some elaborate terracotta work seen on the 12th floor.

Other materials found at the United Shopping Tower include, marble, used for the lobby's decorations and in the elevators, and mahogany, seen like a complemente to the decorations, mainly on doors and elevator details.


  • npgallery.nps.gov