Mossback's Northwest: One-of-a kind characters from PNW's past

From Seattle's first woman mayor to skyjacker D.B. Cooper, our special this year is a survey of quirky characters from our past.

Our annual Mossback’s Northwest Special features a bunch of one-of-a-kind folks who exemplify our region’s quirky originality. It’s a fun anthology of Mossback episodes.

I went with producer/director Stephen Hegg and photographer Resti Bagcal and the rest of the crew to Seattle’s historic Smith Tower to film the show. The Smith Tower, with its pyramid top, is a true original on the city’s skyline and it fit our theme perfectly.

The Smith Tower was built in 1914, long before the city needed a 42-story skyscraper. It was built by the Smith family of Smith Corona typewriter fame. Which made sense for a modern office building filled with business people, clerks and secretaries. It was ahead of its time and was the tallest building west of the Mississippi when built, and west of the Rockies for half a century thereafter. The Space Needle, finished in 1962, took its place as the tallest structure in the city.

A central figure in regional quirkiness was restaurateur Ivar Haglund, the folk singer and clam seller who in the 1970s bought the Smith Tower and made it a flagship for his humorous civic leadership and seafood restaurant chain. Haglund was one of a kind, known for pranks — even a hoax perpetrated after his death! Instead of an American flag flying from the top, Ivar opted for a salmon windsock, which created a stir in city government.

Filming this special at the Smith Tower was fun because the building is so historic, and it doesn’t shy away from some of the aspects of its history, such as the role it played with bootleggers during Prohibition. There’s a small museum there that spills the beans — or bathtub gin — on that.

So, check out our annual tribute, this year to Northwest odd balls, and to the tower that symbolizes our tradition of independent spirit.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.

Stephen Hegg

Stephen Hegg

Stephen is formerly a senior video producer at Crosscut and KCTS 9. He specialized in arts and culture.