Seattle’s Skinner Chimes Are Not What You Think

Those noon chimes? Here’s where they come from

By Lena Beck


March 20, 2019

This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the March 2019 issue. Click here to subscribe.

The Landmark: The Skinner Chimes

The Location: The Skinner Building, downtown, 1326 Fifth Ave.

The Backstory: Each day at noon, Seattleites in the downtown area may hear chimes, yet the sound can’t be traced to any nearby church or cathedral. Listeners might be disappointed to find out that they aren’t real bells, but an electronic carillon—an automated set of chimes. They sound from atop the historic Skinner Building (a space not open to the public), at Fifth Avenue and Union Street, which houses the 5th Avenue Theatre.

The chimes were installed in honor of the late David E. “Ned” Skinner II (1920–1988), a prominent Seattle investor and philanthropist involved with some of the city’s most iconic institutions (the Space Needle, the Seahawks, the 5th Avenue Theatre and the Seattle Art Museum, among others). A plaque outside the building’s Fifth Avenue entrance marks the chimes, as well as Skinner’s contributions to the city.

The chimes serve as a poetic link connecting the Skinner Corporation’s properties across the region, including Carillon Point in Kirkland, a resort and marina featuring six massive bell towers that, in turn, offer a reminder of the area’s shipbuilding past, when bells were used to communicate. Back in downtown Seattle, the chimes indeed still communicate a message—one of our city’s history, and the impact of one man upon it.

Spaces Belltown Reception

IWG Flexible Workspaces Foster Transformational Change | Sponsored

IWG’s hybrid model boost productivity, profits and employee happiness.

IWG is the world’s largest provider of flexible workspace, with 3,500 locations operating under brands including Regus, Spaces and HQ across 120 countries. Its network is unrivaled in its reach, which extends beyond central business districts to suburban and rural areas, where employees have an unparalleled choice of locations in the heart of their local…


Sponsored | How COVID-19 Changed College Admissions

What Every High School Parent and Student Should Know

After last year’s unusual college admission season, parents of high school juniors and seniors have more questions than ever about applying to college during COVID-19. The global pandemic has created a new landscape for students currently applying for college, says college counselor Kelly Herrington.  “When people ask me how COVID-19 has changed college admissions, I…


All Eyes on Seattle

A note from the editor

The new Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington.


News Round Up: The West Seattle Bridge is Falling Down, Falling Down…

Plus: Some farmers markets are reopening and Pride weekend is going virtual

The West Seattle Bridge is closed until further notice.