Meet the Otto

Located in the Forum, the Otto is a great spot to meet with friends before an event or keep the conversation going afterward! Here’s everything you need to know to make yourself at home at Town Hall’s newest bar:

When is the Otto open?

Throughout Homecoming (September 2 – 29, 2019), the Otto is open most event nights from 5:30pm – 10:30pm. Exceptions are below:

  • The Otto is closed Tuesday 9/3, Sunday 9/15, Tuesday, 9/17, and Friday 9/27.
  • The Otto has different hours Saturday 9/7 (1:30pm – 10:30pm), Sunday 9/8 (3pm – 7:30pm), Saturday 9/21 (3:30pm – 10:30pm), Sunday 9/22 (3pm – 7:30pm), and Sunday 9/29 (5:30pm – 7:30pm).

What does the Otto serve?

You can purchase beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages. You can also bring in your own snacks and non-alcoholic drinks.

Please note: Guests are not allowed to bring their own alcohol, and any alcohol purchased at Town Hall must be consumed on the premises in a safe and responsible manner. Town Hall staff will refuse sale to impaired or underage guests.

Is the Otto an all-ages space?

Yes! Everyone is welcome at the Otto. 

Is the Otto open while there’s an event in the Forum?

Service is usually paused during Forum events, but the space is still open. (You’re welcome to buy a ticket for the night’s program and stick around.) On evenings where there is a program in the Great Hall, but not the Forum, the Otto remains open for service throughout.

How did the Otto get its name?

The Otto is named after Otto Haas, the beloved grandfather of Duncan Haas of the Wyncote Foundation NW. Duncan is a visionary investor in Town Hall and gave a naming gift for the Forum during the renovation. It seemed fitting to honor his grandfather’s memory within the space!

What’s up with the wood on the bar?

The bar is made from reclaimed organ pipes from our old organ loft. (You can find even more of our former organ transformed into benches throughout the space and as a sculpture in the Reading Room.)

We Did It!

Our General Manager, Mary Cutler, floated into the office this morning, arms swaying and voice sing-song: “Today is a normal day. Let’s all pretend it’s a normal day.” It is, decidedly, not a normal day. But we echoed her feigned calm and did our best to think about anything other than what was happening across the street. Our final inspection was underway. If given the thumbs up, the building—after nearly two full seasons of renovation—would officially be ours again.

That calm pretense was traded for cheers as Mary shared the good news: we passed. As of 11:46 am today, May 16, Town Hall Seattle is no longer a construction site.

The staff raced over and (without hard hats!) entered through the freshly painted 8th Ave doors, explored stairwells, and marveled at the Reading Room’s bare but beautiful form. We gathered on the Great Hall stage to pop a bottle of champagne, toast one another and the community that made this possible—and also to really feel what’s on the horizon. Wier’s toast hit home: “Twenty years of Town Hall. And now, right now, we get to start it all again.”

Whether you’ve been with us since 1999, met us during Inside/Out, or are stumbling across this post because a friend happened to share a link: we are so incredibly glad you’re here. The future and possibilities of Town Hall have never been quite so bright, and each of us are necessary to manifesting its potential.

We mean that in the grand sense, and also in the practical. This summer is our soft launch; there’s still a lot of fine tuning ahead of us and we need your help–your presence and participation–to get it right. Please lend us your patience (and opinions!) as we grow into the new building, and we hope you’ll enjoy new details coming into place every time you visit this spring and summer (from smaller items like wayfinding signage to big things like bar service and commissioned artwork). With your help, the building will be the best version of itself in time for our big Homecoming festival this September!

Our very first event in the Great Hall is just days away (Tuesday, May 21), and we can’t imagine a more fitting debut for the room. Joshua Roman, our longtime friend and Town Music Artistic Director, will lend us his virtuosic talents in a solo cello concert. There are still a few tickets remaining, and we hope you’ll join us to help mark the moment.

Even as we celebrate the end of our own renovation, we should note: more than just Town Hall has been under construction. Our full block is in the midst of being developed. While the plaza and Ovation towers are being built, the Forum is accessible via our new at-grade West Entrance, reachable from the loading zone on Seneca street.

Lectern Lectures

The Forum is now open! We’re excited about all the possibilities of the space. One item in the new space is a functional piece of art—the lectern. Comprised primarily of 14-gauge cold-rolled steel and finished with acid patina and wax, the lectern’s height is electrically variable from 42” to 48” via linear actuator. Its body rolls on ‘ball races,’ typically used for heavy material handling, but reconfigured and manufactured as furniture casters, complete with brakes!

Karl Swanson, who built the lectern, chatted briefly with Town Hall’s marketing manager, Jonathan Shipley, about his art.

Karl Swanson

JS: What is your full time job?

KS: I don’t work full-time anywhere…I am self-underemployed, focusing on my personal art.

JS: How did you get into metalwork?

KS: I was self-introduced to metal fabrication in my grandfather’s shop in Grand Island, Nebraska. He did his own maintenance on his many rental properties. He had all types of tools and materials, and me and my siblings were free to explore. I once made a chicken out of wire, nuts, and bolts! My earliest love was automobiles, and to be creative with them you needed metalworking skills, so that steered me in the general direction. Also, after dropping out of art school, my step-mother recommended that I attend vocational school and learn to weld, both for work and sculpture. Although I ultimately did not do the schooling, the suggestion nudged me toward the craft.

JS: What are some other metal projects that you’ve done?

KS: I was a metal fabricator professionally for 25 years, all told. Everything from blacksmithing to aerospace metal fabrication. I did my own sculptural furniture in Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara. The list of projects is long. Recently, I built folding bunk beds for a tiny house construction company that was being filmed for a reality TV show.

JS: Why did you want to work with Town Hall?

KS: My family has a long tradition of being supportive of—and being culturally nurtured by—Town Hall. The building’s renovation project was impressive and ambitious and I wanted to take part somehow. Also, Wier Harman had been instrumental in helping our family find the perfect care facility for our matriarch and I wanted to return the favor.

JS: About the lectern—what aspect of it are you most proud of?

KS: I am most proud of creating a tool that satisfies both myself as a designer/fabricator and Town Hall as an end user.

JS: What was the most challenging aspect of the lectern?

KS: The most challenging part was the time frame: fully six months from first discussions to finished product. There were some relatively minor technical challenges that I lost a bit of sleep over, but those are to be expected with custom fabrication when there are moving components.

JS: What’s your next metal project?

KS: I plan to do some personal small-scale sculpture with copper, brass and cloth. I will also continue to do itinerant metalwork for a shop in Santa Barbara. I might possibly help with the exterior electric bicycle corral at Town Hall, too!

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum

Our renovation has touched every corner of Town Hall. When the cranes clear out and the plaster is all swept up, some of our performance spaces will feel revitalized yet familiar—while others will get to introduce themselves all over again.

The Great Hall will retain its classic warmth (with a few modern amenities), but our downstairs space is undergoing a complete transformation. Downstairs is becoming The Forum, a completely modular 300-seat space designed to keep up with Town Hall’s fluid calendar. The room’s design allows it to become the best possible version of itself, re-forming to fit the needs of each event and completely transfiguring the energy each night.

Here are a few events we wish we could have put on in The Forum while we’ve been Inside/Out:

Any Saturday Family Concert with Caspar Babypants. We could rearrange the room to give the kids a wide open dance space up by the stage.

An episode of Sandbox Radio. Sandbox brings so much energy to the stage—and so many performers! Plus they usually bring tons of instruments and sound effects, so they need all the room they can get.

Pie & Whiskey. Can you imagine the whole room downstairs smelling like fresh-baked pie coming from the new kitchen? Delicious.

MIT Enterprise Forum: Art in the 21st Century. On January 16, 2019 the folks from the MIT Enterprise Forum turned The Summit into a pop-up art gallery, with a panel discussion to tie it all together. Once Town Hall’s downstairs is fully transformed into The Forum, we’ll have the flexibility to do that too—plus so much more.

Sign up on our mailing list to hear more updates about our renovation schedule and to hear more news about our building reopening.

Elevator Pitch

Town Hall’s historic renovation is in its homestretch. We’ll reopen in the coming months but there’s still work to do!  Help us raise $200,000 in new gifts by the end of February and an anonymous donor will match your gifts, dollar-for-dollar. Learn more here.

While we’re eager to open our doors again, we’re starting a new series entitled “If These Halls Could Talk,” highlighting specific upgrades and enhancements to our building. One renovation we’re particularly happy with is our elevator. We’ve installed a gleaming, bright, state-of-the-art thyssenkrupp elevator. It recently had a talk with our old elevator, Otis.

thyssenkrupp: Otis, you did good work.

Otis: Thanks! I was moving people up and down at Town Hall for years!

thyssenkrupp: You’ve got quite a storied history.

Otis: Do I ever! Otis is the world’s largest manufacturer of vertical transportation systems! Otis invented the “safety elevator” in 1852. Sweet Elisha Otis was our founder. After he demonstrated his newfangled elevator at the 1854 World’s Fair in New York City, the elevator industry established credibility! His 1857 steam plow invention didn’t gain steam though. Ha!

thyssenkrupp: You’re telling me that without Otis, I wouldn’t be here!

Otis: You’re too kind! But, yes. Not to brag, but our elevators have been in some of the world’s most famous structures.

thyssenkrupp: Do tell!

Otis: The Eiffel Tower. Have you heard of it?! Oh, I have stories. The Empire State Building. That’s pretty famous. The original World Trade Center. CN Tower. Oh. And yes, of course, Town Hall Seattle.

thyssenkrupp: I’m honored to follow in your illustrious footsteps and add something new.

Otis: How so?

thyssenkrupp: Modernization. Innovation. Efficiency.

Otis: Indeed. Your engineering prowess is first rate.

thyssenkrupp: In 40 short years we’ve become one of the world’s leading elevator companies with unique engineering capabilities. Saving energy and time is what I’m known for. When done well, urban mobility drives down congestion, pollution, stress, and energy consumption.

Otis: Archimedes, what would he think of you now?!

thyssenkrupp: Good ol’ Archimedes! He reportedly built the world’s first elevator, probably in 236 BC.

Otis: And here you are, carrying on his legacy.

thyssenkrupp: I plan to! I’m an endura 35 II A with a 3,500 pound capacity. A smooth, quiet, and efficient workhorse, I am quite suited for Town Hall’s demands. I’m a part of thyssenkrupp AG that has over 155,000 employees in nearly 80 countries! One of the world’s largest steel producers, our products range from frigates to submarines, trains to a Town Hall elevator.

Otis: I’m floored.

thyssenkrupp: Ha! Don’t forget that you can help raise me, and Town Hall, up with a financial contribution. Do it today!  

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