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Sidewalk Prism Glass

Sidewalk prism glass is a common feature in urban commercial centers throughout the United States.  In Washington, you'll find this cherished but often heavily damaged or poorly maintained feature on sidewalks in front of historic buildings from Port Townsend to Tacoma, Seattle, Spokane, and everywhere in between. Their function historically was to allow natural light into storage spaces below the right of way that are connected to basements.  They are most common in areas with urban development from the late 19th century until the 1930s.  They are increasingly endangered as sidewalks get replaced over time, or property owners and municipalities reinforce or fill the voids below them for structural purposes.  Below you will find some guidance on how to preserve these features, where to source new materials, and some examples of some that have been restored.

Pioneer Square Prism Glass Design Manual (Alliance for Pioneer Square, prepared by MIG|SVR)

American Luxfer Prism Glass - 1920

American Luxfer Prism Glass - 1925


Case studies:

Secret Bar under the restored sidewalk prism glass.​

Sidewalk prism glass at the Tacoma Elks Temple (now a McMenamins) during construction and in the "Secret Bar" below.