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

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 6/21/2000
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2508

On May 19, 1976, Ivar Haglund (1905-1985), the restaurateur famed for his escapades, folk singing, storytelling, and waterfront 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, and for many years, Smith Tower was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. When the structure opened on July 4, 1914, it measured 462 feet to the top of its roof and 489 feet to the tip of its antenna spire. 

Tale of the 'Golden Salmon'

Among its many features, Smith Tower had a flagpole on top, but it was little used because of the expense of replacing wind-damaged flags. In 1977, in lieu of a flag, the proprietors of Great Winds, a kite shop in Pioneer Squre, sold Haglund a 16-foot salmon-shaped windsock, which the restaurateur named the "Rainbow Salmon." Great Winds was owned by Ken Conrad, Tom Deen, and Bill Hull. Deen designed the windsock, Hull did the fabrication, and seamstress Kathy Hostetter (Goodwin) assembled it (Hull email).

The "Rainbow Salmon" was unfurled on September 29, 1977. After it suffered wind damage, Hull made anotehr one. 

"After that, Ivar and I discussed it and the decision was made to have several less-expensive ones screen-printed in Japan. None of us knew at the time how popular it would become, after Al Petty of the Building Department found us in violation" (Hull email).

The first windsock wasn't up long before the City of Seattle notified Haglund 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 said he had no intention of making money on the project, Haglund sold Smith Tower on January 18, 1985, for $5.5 million. 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. Bill Hull, email dated August 2, 2019, in possession of HistoryLink.org. Note: This item was revised and corrected on August 2, 2019. 

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