D.B. and T.M. Morgan founded the Northern Life Insurance Company in Seattle, with assets of $170,232 and a 12-by-12 foot office in the Colman Building. After the death of T.M. Morgan in 1919, D.B. Morgan decided to construct his own building.
The plan to construct the building was announced in April 1927, at a cost of $1.5 million. Originally a 24-story building, the Northern Life Tower was increased to 27 stories, thus when it was completed it was one floor higher above sea level than the Smith Tower, which had previously been referred to as "the tallest building west of the Mississippi."
Completed in 1928, the Northern Life Tower, a true skyscraper, located at 1212 3rd Avenue, right across the street from The Cobb Building, represents a dramatic shift in the skyline of Seattle. Buildings of the early 20th-century were based on classical styles.
However, by the 1920s, architects began to favor designs that attempted to emulate the speed, efficiency, and power found within technology, perceived by many as humanity`s hope for the future.
The Northern Life Tower was the first building in Seattle to illustrate this style, now known as Art Deco or Art Moderne. Derived from Eliel Saarinen`s famous, second-place proposal for the Chicago Tribune contest, the Northern Life Tower building beautifully illustrates the increasing popularity of a simple, smooth, almost machine-like exterior.
This faith in progress also appeared in the lighting that once fully illuminated the building, more than 200 floodlights faded into one another in a grand canvas meant to imitate the aurora borealis, and illustrate the belief that science could emulate nature`s incredible wonders.
Today, newer and taller skyscrapers dwarf the building, and the lights are all gone, but it remains one of the Northwest`s most elegant Art-Deco works of art.