Old National Bank building

Reaching for the Heavens

In 1910 the National Bank building was completed, becoming the tallest building in all of Washington State for a short time.

In 1891 the National Bank of Spokane was created with the backing of wealthy businessmen from the region. At the time there were few notably tall buildings in Washington. The National Bank hosted a nationwide competition for the design plan of the building.

D.H. Burnham and Co, the largest architecture firm in the world at the time, won the design competition. Burnham designed a number of iconic buildings including the Union Station in Washington D.C., the Continental Trust Company skyscraper in Baltimore, and New York's Flatiron Building.

Costing 1.3 million dollars, the construction of the building began in March and took eight months to complete. The framed with fireproofed steel beams and the exterior material was a white terra cotta. The framing of the windows on every floor was wood that was painted a deep green. The 16th floor was topped with an arcade with a commanding view of the expanding city. The interior of the building matched the grandeur of the exterior. Two entrances opened into a grand lobby fitted with granite columns. Five elevators carried Spokanites to upper floors. The building was 219 feet tall and a total of 16 floors, and opened in January of 1911. This was one of D.H Burnham’s final building designs as he passed away a year later.

It was not only the largest building in Spokane but the tallest building in the state. Inside the basement of the National Bank was its greatest asset, the bank's vault. In an era before federal deposit insurance, the reputation of a bank rested on the thickness of its walls. Protected by a 23” thick steel door that weighed 36 tons, the vault was 27’ x 9’ the walls were made from three 1.5” thick layers of different types of steel making it the most secure in the Northwest for quite some time.

The Old National Bank Building’s reign as the tallest building in Washington was brief. Later in 1911, the Key Bank Building in Tacoma took the title. Today the Old National Bank Building still stands in downtown Spokane as the US bank building.