Spokane I C-120 - History

Spokane I C-120 - History

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Spokane I

(C120: dp. 6,000; 1. 541'; b. 53'2”; dr. 25'11; s.
31.8 k.; cpl. 801; a. 12 5, 28 40mm.; cl. Juneau)

Spokane (C120) was laid down on 15 November 1944 by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Kearny, N.J., launched on 22 September 1945; sponsored by Miss Patrice Munsel; and commissioned on 17 May 1946, Capt. L. E. Crist in command.

Spokane shifted to Bayonne, N.J., and then to Brooklyn, N.Y., whence she sailed on 24 June for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for her shakedown cruise and to conduct battle practice and weapons firing. She returned to New York on 11 September. The cruiser was assigned to the 2d Fleet for duty in European waters and sailed for Plymouth, England, on 7 October.

Spokane operated out of British ports until mid-January 1947. During her tour, she visited Scotland, Ireland, Norway, and Denmark. On 27 January, she stood out of Plymouth and proceeded to the United States via Portugal, Gibraltar, and Guantanamo Bay where she participated in fleet exercises before arriving at Norfolk, Va., on 18 March. Following fleet and bombardment exercises in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer, she had a period of yard availability at the Brooklyn Navy Yard from 22 September to 14 October. The cruiser returned to Norfolk for Navy Day, 27 October, and then prepared for another deployment

'Spokane stood out of Norfolk on the 29th and rendezvoused with other units of the 2d Task Fleet for tactical exercises off Bermuda until 8 November when she sailed for England. She arrived at Plymouth on 16 November and was assigned to duty with Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. Four days later, the ship donned "full dress" in celebration of the marriage of Her Royal Highness, Princess Elizabeth of England. The cruiser visited Bremerhaven Germany, from 24 to 26 November and returned to England for tactical operations. In February 1947, the ship called at Rotterdam, The Netherlands, where she was visited by his Royal Highness Prince Bernhard on the 17th. On 1 March, Spokane stood out of Plymouth en route to the east coast and arrived at Norfolk on 11 March. On the 18th, her designation was changed to CLAA-120.

Spokane's operations along the eastern seaboard during the remainder of the year were broken by an overhaul at the New York Navy Yard from 27 May to 15 September. On 4 January 1949, the ship sortied with Philippine Sea (CV-47) and Manchester (CL-83) for the Mediterranean. On 25 January, at Athens, the cruiser was paid a royal visit by King Paul and Queen Fredrika of Greece. Spokane participated in war games with 6th Fleet units and visited ports in Turkey, Italy, France, Sardinia, Tunisia Libya, and Algeria before returning to Norfolk on 23 May.

Spokane acted as a training ship for Naval Reserves of the 4th Naval District during the summer and then participated in training exercises in the Virginia Capes area.

On 24 October 1949, Spokane sailed to New York for inactivation. She was placed in reserve, out of commission, on 27 February 1950 and berthed at New York. On 1 April 1966, she was redesignated A-191. Spokane was struck from the Navy list on 15 April 1972. She was sold to Luria Bros. & Co. Inc., on 17 May 1973 and scrapped.

History of Spokane, Washington

The history of Spokane, Washington in the northwestern United States developed because Spokane Falls and its surroundings were a gathering place for numerous cultures for thousands of years. The area's indigenous people settled there due to the fertile hunting grounds and abundance of salmon in the Spokane River. The first European to explore the Inland Northwest was Canadian explorer-geographer David Thompson, working as head of the North West Company's Columbia Department. At the nexus of the Little Spokane and the Spokane, Thompson's men built a new fur trading post, which is the first long-term European settlement in Washington state.

The first American settlers, squatters J.J. Downing, with his wife, stepdaughter, and S.R. Scranton, built a cabin and established a claim at Spokane Falls in 1871. James N. Glover and Jasper Matheney, two Oregonians passing through the region in 1873, recognized the value of the Spokane River and its falls. They realized the development potential and bought the claims of 160 acres (0.65 km 2 ) and the sawmill from Downing and Scranton for $4,000 total. Glover and Matheney knew that the Northern Pacific Railroad Company had received a government charter to build a main line across this northern route. By 1881, the Northern Pacific Railway was completed, bringing major European settlement to the area. With the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad and the later additions to the city's railroad infrastructure by the arrival of the Union Pacific, Great Northern, and Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific railroads, Spokane became the commercial center of the Inland Northwest. It was one of the most important rail centers in the western United States. Spokane hosted the first environmentally themed World's Fair in Expo '74, becoming the then-smallest city to ever host a World's Fair. With falling silver, timber, and farm prices, the city economy began a decline that would last into the 1990s. Spokane is still trying to make the transition to a more service-oriented economy. The opening of the River Park Square Mall in 1999 sparked a downtown rebirth that included the building of the Spokane Arena and expansion of the Spokane Convention Center.


On November 2, 1909, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) formally begins the Spokane free-speech fight. This is a civil disobedience action mounted in public defiance of a Spokane City Council ordinance banning speaking on the streets, an ordinance directed against IWW organizing. On this day, one by one, IWW members mount a soapbox (an overturned crate) and begin speaking, upon which Spokane police yank them off the box and take them to jail. On the first day, 103 Wobblies are arrested, beaten, and incarcerated. Within a month, arrests will mount to 500, including the fiery young Wobbly orator Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890-1964). The Spokane free-speech fight will end with the City revoking the ordinance. It will inaugurate free-speech fights in other cities, and is considered one of the most significant battles to protect freedom of speech in American history.

Employment Agencies Prefer Silence

Stevens Street in Spokane was lined with employment agencies that charged the many transient workers looking for work a dollar to receive a job in a logging camp or construction crew. The employer would then keep the worker for a day or two, dismiss him, and hire another. If the worker wanted another job he could go down to one of the employment agencies and pay another dollar to get one.

IWW organizer James Walsh arrived in Spokane in the fall of 1908, and found the streets surging with two or three thousand angry workers. On at least one occasion Walsh calmed a mob set to wreck an employment agency, urging the men instead to join the IWW. That year the IWW established a union hall with a library, a cigar and newspaper stand, and a meeting hall. The union conducted meetings and lectures four or five times a week. A newspaper, the Industrial Worker was established.

The employment agencies, known to laboring men as "sharks" or "leeches," persuaded the Spokane City Council to pass an ordinance against speaking on the streets, and this went into effect on January 1, 1909. Spokane Mayor N. S. Pratt, a prominent wholesale lumberman, did not object.

The IWW cooperated at first, holding union meetings inside the union hall. In the summer the harvest season was on and many workers left town. In August the City Council made an exception to the prohibition on street speaking for the Salvation Army. This was not acceptable to the IWW. In the fall numerous transient workers returned to town, and the free-speech fight was on. The Industrial Worker sent out a call for Wobbly members to come to Spokane to get arrested for the cause, and migrant laborers from all over, known as hoboes or bindlestiffs or timberbeasts, began pouring into town.

"Friends and Fellow Workers!"

On November 2, a soapbox was put up, and Wobblies began standing on it to begin speaking to the huge assembled crowd. Each "speaker" was arrested immediately, so there was no need to be a talented orator. Legend has it that one brave soul mounted the box and began: "Friends and Fellow Workers!" For the moment there was no police officer at the ready. The man was struck with stage fright and hollered, "Where are the cops?!"

During the next month more than 500 were arrested. The U.S. War Department assisted the City of Spokane in its fight against the constitutional right of free speech by providing Fort Wright to lock up the Wobblies after the city jail was full to overflowing.

Rebel Girl Arrives

The young organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn arrived in town and delayed her immediate arrest by chaining herself to a post. She was an impassioned and appealing orator and one of the reasons other citizens in town began to come around to the point of view that the Wobblies were on the right side.

Flynn was put in jail and later published accounts in the Industrial Worker of the filthy, crowded, and generally horrendous conditions in the city jail, including the charge that the sheriff was using the women's section of the jail as a profitable brothel, with police soliciting customers. Police attempted to destroy every copy of the December 10 issue in which Flynn made these charges. Before this, eight editors in succession had gotten out an issue before being arrested. After the December 10 issue, the Wobblies moved the Industrial Worker to Seattle until on May 10, 1910, they moved it back to Spokane.

Spokane Comes Around

The Spokane free-speech fight attracted nationwide attention. The IWW's own union history gives this account of its successful conclusion:

In the end the Wobblies were supported by the Spokane Press, local women's civic groups, AFL craft union affiliates, various socialists, and German societies.

On March 4, 1910, Spokane revoked the ordinance, and the prisoners were released. Before long the licenses of 19 of the employment agencies were revoked and firms began hiring workers directly. The reputation of the Industrial Workers of the World reached a high point in Spokane.

Stevens Street, looking south from Main Avenue, Spokane, ca. 1910

Applications NOW OPEN! 2021 Historic Preservation Façade Improvement Grant Applications

Looking for money to help rehabilitate your historic building? We’ve got some! Introduced in 2019, the Spokane Historic Preservation Office is excited to offer the Historic Preservation Façade Improvement Grant for the third cycle. Created by a revision to the City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance, the Historic Preservation Façade Improvement Grant Program provides selected applicants with matching funds up to $5,000 for the rehabilitation of historic façades. All properties listed on the Spokane Register of Historic Places AND within the City of Spokane are eligible to apply. (This includes contributing properties in the recently listed Browne’s Addition Local Historic District.)

Applications for 2021 are due on Tuesday, June 15, 2021.

Please contact Logan Camporeale with any questions: [email protected]

Swipe the photos below to see what a little facade love can do!


Spokane is the largest city in Eastern Washington and the commercial hub for an interstate area known formerly as the "Inland Empire" and now as the "Inland Northwest." After settlement in the 1870s, it quickly became the county seat of Spokane County and the regional center for mining, agriculture, timber, transportation, education, and medical services. Urban development has spread far beyond the 2005 population of 200,000 residing within the present city limits in a county of almost 430,000. Spokane, like many cities, has undergone periods of boom, bust, stagnation, and recovery. For well over 100 years, it has provided a welcome urban oasis in the less populated stretch of plains and mountains between the Mississippi River and Seattle.

The Spokanes

Human occupancy of the site began centuries earlier. A river, particularly its spectacular series of falls, was the reason for both native habitation and later white settlement. Eventually called the Spokane River, this tributary of the Columbia teemed with salmon that sustained the region's indigenous people, the Spokanes. During salmon runs, other tribes joined the Spokanes at the falls for fishing, trade, games, celebration, and socializing. Although there are varying theories, the most commonly agreed upon meaning of the name "Spokane" is "Children of the Sun."

As white settlement increased, the Spokanes were swept into the broader Indian-white conflicts of the region. In 1881, the Spokane Reservation was established northwest of the present city, and from 1908, dams on the Spokane River ended tribe's salmon-based way of life.

Europeans Arrive

Fur traders and missionaries were the first people of European descent to traverse the broader area of which Spokane would eventually become the hub. In 1807, David Thompson (1770-1857), fur trader and cartographer with the Canadian North West Company, crossed the Continental Divide and began exploring the watershed of the upper Columbia, including the Spokane River region. Missionaries Elkanah Walker and Cushing Eells (1810-1893) were in the region from 1838-1848. From then on, whites visiting the area were struck not only with the grandeur of the falls but with their potential economic importance.

In 1871, James J. Downing and Seth R. Scranton built a sawmill at the falls on the south bank of the river. In 1873 James N. Glover (1837-1921) and a partner, Jasper N. Matheney, arrived from Oregon seeking land, possibly to establish a town, and were impressed with the potential of the falls site. Without revealing their ultimate intentions, they succeeded in purchasing Downing's mill and the 160 acres that he held as a squatter under terms of the 1841 Preemtion Act. Glover, who became known as the "Father of Spokane," next acquired Scranton's claim. In 1877 he bought out his partner Matheney and persuaded a German-born miller, Frederick Post, to build a gristmill at the falls. Glover soon expanded the existing sawmill and built a general store.

Spokane Grows into a Town

With the benefits of a store, lumber, and flour, more families began to settle on the south side of the river. Churches, schools, banks, hotels, saloons and newspapers soon followed. Before long, Post pursued his original intention of establishing a mill farther up the river at what later became Post Falls, Idaho. The Rev. S. G. Havermale, who had arrived in 1875, replaced Post as the miller at Spokan Falls. (During the early years, spelling of the city varied between Spokan and Spokane, and "Falls" was dropped in 1891.)

Among the enterprising settlers of the 1870s were Anthony M. Cannon (1839-1895) and John J. Browne (1843-1912), who bought half interest in Glover's property, including his store. Cannon became the first banker in Spokane Falls, and Browne set up a law practice. Along with Glover, they were active in real estate development of the newly platted area and became wealthy civic leaders. As more settlers arrived, the need for hotels became clear, and in 1877 the Western House was built, followed the next year by the larger California House. In 1879, Francis H. Cook established the first newspaper, the Spokan Times. The year 1879 also saw the creation of Spokane County, carved out of Stevens County, with Spokane named temporary county seat. A subsequent rivalry with nearby Cheney, including theft of Spokane County records, was eventually resolved in Spokane's favor. Architect Willis Ritchie completed a French chateau-style county courthouse in 1895.

The Prosperous 1880s

The 1880s brought growth and prosperity. In 1881, with a population of about 1,000, Spokane was incorporated. The virgin forests in the Northwest were an incentive to railroad development, and in 1883 the Northern Pacific was completed, assuring the city's future. Mineral discoveries in the Coeur d'Alene area of northern Idaho and the northeast corner of Washington started a boom, first in gold, then in silver, lead, and zinc. For decades, these mines funneled wealth into Spokane. In addition, the fertile wheat-producing Palouse hills to the south, irrigated farms in the Spokane Valley, railroads, and the timber industry made Spokane the undisputed economic center of the Inland Empire.

Enduring institutions, such as Gonzaga University and Sacred Heart Hospital, were founded. A street railway system was established, bridges built, and platting of the north shore of the river was begun. By 1886, Spokane was ahead of San Francisco and Portland in acquiring streetlights.

By the 1880s, Spokane was becoming a major center for agricultural and industrial fairs and conventions. The Washington-Idaho Fair, begun in 1887, continued as the Spokane Interstate Fair, discontinued during the Depression, but revived in 1952. The National Apple Show was held annually at Spokane from 1908 to 1916. Well into the twentieth century, conventions of national irrigation and agriculture organizations, as well as congresses for the mining and timber industries, regularly convened in Spokane.

Burning and Rebuilding

The 1880s ended with a devastating fire that started on August 4, 1889, destroying much of the city center. A tent city temporarily housed downtown businesses, which carried on as usual. Fortunately, many of the buildings were insured and were quickly replaced with handsome, durable structures of brick or stone. Post-fire Spokane bore the stamp of Kirtland K. Cutter (1860-1939) and other distinguished architects and was soon regarded as the finest city between Minneapolis and Seattle.

Perhaps as a show of confidence, in the fall of 1890, Spokane held the Northwest Industrial Exposition, the first industrial fair in the state. The newly operational Washington Water Power Company provided electricity for the imposing new exposition building. The building burned down shortly thereafter, but the influence of the exposition endured.

Spokane's 1890s

Then the Panic of 1893 brought unemployment for many and loss of fortunes of such early leaders as Glover, Browne, and Cannon. A Dutch mortgage company, the Northwestern and Pacific Hypotheekbank, which had financed construction of many of the post-fire buildings, foreclosed and, for a considerable time, much valuable Spokane real estate was owned by the Dutch.

In the post-Panic recovery, a new generation of wealthy leaders emerged, mostly mining or railroad men. Among them were Amasa B. Campbell, Patrick (Patsy) Clark, August Paulsen, Levi Hutton (1860-1928), D. C. (Daniel Chase) Corbin (1832-1918), Jay P. Graves (1859-1948), John H. Finch, Robert E. Strahorn, and F. Lewis Clark. Over the years, they increased Spokane's inventory of Kirtland Cutter-designed mansions. Some of the newspapers published during the 1880s were consolidated under William H. Cowles, founding a family newspaper dynasty whose Spokesman-Review continues to the present. Fort George Wright, garrisoned in 1899, brought a military presence to the city until its closure in 1957.

All Roads Lead to Spokane

In 1900 Spokane had a population of almost 40,000. Soon the city experienced the transition from the horse-drawn to the motorized era. Street railways were electrified. An interurban railway system linked Spokane with surrounding towns, and feeder railroads connected with transcontinental lines. The year 1905 saw the founding of McGoldrick Lumber, for years Spokane's largest employer. The Northern Pacific and later the Great Northern railroads promoted settlement by means of brochures promising an agricultural and economic utopia in Spokane and the Inland Empire. Then, with the advent of the automobile and improved roads, the city truly began living up to its promotional slogan: "All roads lead to Spokane."

By 1909, Spokane was said to have 26 millionaires, and upscale residential neighborhoods were developing in Browne's Addition, west of the center, and on the South Hill, picturesque basalt-strewn heights overlooking downtown. Wealthy landowners, realizing that municipal parks adjacent to their "additions" would increase value of the lots they were selling, donated land to the city for that purpose. The nationally famous Olmsted Brothers firm of landscape architects was brought in to suggest designs for parks, residential streets, private gardens, and preservation of the scenic river area. The most influential local promoter of city parks was Aubrey Lee White (1868-1948), first and longtime president of the park board. Spokane women's clubs were also vital in promoting parks as well as libraries and the arts.

Working and Voting

The enormous immigration boom between 1900 and 1910 helped increase Spokane's population from almost 40,000 to more than 100,000. The working class increasingly settled on the north side of the river. Ethnic enclaves developed, such as the largely Finnish "Peaceful Valley" west of the city center along the south bank of the river. Italians, Germans, Chinese, and others had similar centers of settlement and cultural identity.

Seasonal workers resided in downtown workingmen's hotels or in flophouses between jobs in the mines or lumber camps. Labor troubles, which had reached a violent pitch in the Coeur d'Alene mines in the 1890s, continued. Spokane, already a major union stronghold, became one of several recruitment centers of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies). In January 1909, demonstrations of a "free speech movement" led to mass arrests. A fiery speech and subsequent arrest of a young woman labor organizer, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, had repercussions far beyond Spokane.

Washington state women received the vote in 1910. Spokane's best-known suffrage advocate was the colorful and outspoken May Arkwright Hutton (1860-1915), wife of Levi Hutton and partner in his Hercules Mine and other enterprises. Although not always accepted by Spokane's society matrons, she was influential on state and national levels and eventually became a local heroine.

Charm and Fun

Enhancing Spokane's appeal as a convention city were its hotels, especially the charming "Arts and Crafts" style Spokane Hotel, built after the fire. Early in the century, business leaders seeking to increase Spokane's importance as a convention destination, promoted the idea of a larger hotel. In Louis Davenport (1869-1961), they found the right man to launch and then manage such a project, and his spectacular Davenport Hotel, designed by Kirtland Cutter, opened in 1914. With its atmosphere of luxury and hospitality, it was long regarded as the finest hotel west of the Mississippi. During the 1950s and 1960s it suffered neglect and was closed in 1985. After several threats of demolition, it was bought in 2000 and restored to its former grandeur.

The city's self-promotion during the teens was best exemplified by the Spokane Advertising Club's "Miss Spokane" competition. Not a typical beauty contest, it was rather a quest for a charming, bright, and articulate young woman to act as hostess and representative for the city. The first and most celebrated, chosen in 1912, was Marguerite Motie, who, amazingly, served in the position until 1939.

In the years leading up to World War I, Spokane was learning to have fun. In 1895, Washington Water Power had acquired Natatorium Park, already a destination amusement park, in a bend of the Spokane River at the end of the west-bound street railway. First the swimming pool (hence the name), then a proliferation of entertainment and rides attracted hordes of people, thus increasing ridership on Washington Water Power lines. Nat Park closed in 1968, but its classic carousel was relocated to Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane.

Furthermore, electric interurban trains made it easy to get to Liberty Lake east of Spokane and Lake Coeur d'Alene across the Idaho border. Then as cars made these and other lakes more accessible, Spokanites built vacation cottages, and "going to the lake" became the standard summer activity.

Aviation had been important to the Spokane story almost from the beginning of flight, and during the 1920s the city became a center for private, commercial, and military aviation. In 1924 the Washington National Guard was formed under local hero Major John Fancher. On September 12, 1927, soon after his trans-Atlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh caused a sensation by visiting Spokane in his Spirit of St. Louis. Later that month Spokane hosted the National Air Races and Spokane Air Derby, with races from New York and San Francisco converging on the city.

During the 1920s, the Mamer Air Transport Company pioneered a commercial and mail route between Seattle, Spokane, and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Early commercial aviation was based at Felts Field east of the city. Present Spokane International Airport to the west serves major national and international carriers. The threat of World War II led to the establishment of an air base in Spokane, first at Geiger Field, then Fairchild AFB, which continues today.

A Twentieth-century American City

The experiences of Spokane during World War I, Prohibition, the Roaring Twenties and the Depression were mostly like those of other American cities. Spokane mobilized Red Cross and other home front efforts. The flu epidemic of 1918 resulted in more than 1,000 deaths. During Prohibition, local moonshiners did a brisk trade, bootleg liquor flowed across the Canadian border, and law enforcement was often corrupt. An agricultural depression that began during the 1920s resulted in the foreclosure of many farms. The Spokane Stock Exchange, formed in 1897 to trade mining stocks, suffered in the 1929 crash, but recovered to function until 1991.

During the Depression, banks and businesses failed, Spokane's unemployment rate was one in four, and soup lines were long. However, such relief programs as the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps provided temporary employment and permanent infrastructural improvements. The biggest New Deal project, Grand Coulee Dam, soon crucial to the war effort, provided rural electrification to Eastern Washington and low electric rates that facilitated postwar industry in Spokane.

During World War II, Spokane was home to the Velox Naval Supply Depot, the massive Galena Army Air Corps supply and repair depot (later Fairchild AFB), Geiger Field, Fort George Wright, and the Baxter Army Hospital. In addition, two federally owned aluminum plants at suburban Mead and Trentwood proved crucial to the war effort. Some 15,000 Spokane residents served in the armed forces and many were employed in war-related industries.

The veterans returned, many to attend local and nearby colleges, such as Gonzaga, Whitworth, Eastern and Washington State, under the GI Bill. They bought the postwar crackerbox houses in newly platted developments, and raised children in, as popular lore proclaimed, "a good place to raise a family." Postwar Spokane coasted in modest prosperity and entrenched conservative values. Its several dozen leading families, intertwined through business, marriage, social life, and civic involvement, continued to run the city. Blue-collar workers received a boost when Henry J. Kaiser took over the Mead and Trentwood aluminum plants in 1946, expanding the peacetime use of aluminum and Spokane's base of manufacturing jobs.

Decline and Renewal

Although relatively unscathed by the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, Spokane underwent other changes. Urban sprawl began to develop, particularly with the completion of Interstate 90 in 1967. With the proliferation of postwar suburban shopping malls, the downtown core declined. Some historic buildings were razed to make room for characterless office blocks and parking lots. Fortunately, a lack of development capital during the period saved others from the wrecking ball. The river area, long a polluted eyesore, crisscrossed by railroad trestles and lined by unsightly warehouses and parking lots, remained neglected.

Spokane's business and civic leaders, realizing it was time to halt the slide of the city and to rehabilitate the river, formed a group called Spokane Unlimited. Under King Cole, its first paid director, an audacious plan for restoring the river and surrounding blighted area began to take shape: Expo '74, a world's fair with an environmental theme. Through arduous fund raising and complex negotiations with the railroads and other property owners, the city acquired the land. The river was cleared of its crisscross of trestles, and buildings on much of the south bank were razed.

In their place emerged the permanent Riverfront Park, opera house, convention center, and Imax Theater, as well as temporary pavilions of many nations and organizations. The opera house hosted major performers, and the convention center provided a venue for important environmental symposiums. The polluted waters of the river were at least temporarily cleaned up. Overcoming incredible obstacles, Expo '74, which opened on May 4 and ran until November 4, was a huge success, attended by more than five million people, leaving an improved city.


The energy and cooperation that produced Expo '74 were not sustained during the next two decades. City government was unfocused and contentious, and the public-private relationships that made the fair possible withered. The nationwide slump of the 1980s resulted locally in high unemployment and a stagnant real estate market. A relative lack of skilled workers was exacerbated by a brain drain of many of the city's best-educated young people.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, major downtown department stores, such as the legendary Crescent, could not compete with suburban shopping malls, and closed. In the 1990s, supposedly secure family-wage industries, such as Kaiser Aluminum, changed ownership, drastically reducing their workforces and pensions.

Reinventing Spokane

In an attempt to revitalize the entire Spokane economy, city leaders reinvented themselves with Momentum, a new organization replacing Spokane Unlimited. Although voters opposed to tax increases defeated some of its proposals, Momentum's efforts eventually led to a new sports arena and the beginnings of a cooperative higher education center.

Since the late 1990s, Spokane has been regaining optimism. It continues to shine in the medical field. New libraries have been built, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture expanded, and the art deco Fox Theater is being restored as a home for Spokane's increasingly acclaimed symphony orchestra. The new arena attracts traveling shows and major sports events. Bloomsday, an annual footrace founded in 1977, attracts about 50,000 participants each spring. Downtown living is becoming an option as architects and preservationists adapt classic Spokane buildings as residential space and develop former railroad land into a riverside mixed-use "urban village."

The most dramatic and contentious recent development has been River Park Square, a public-private venture creating a downtown mall and parking garage aimed at returning vitality to the city center. Opened in 1999, it resulted in years of litigation, settled in 2005, between its major private backer, the Cowles family, and its public funder, the City of Spokane. A consortium of regional universities is expanding its Spokane campus, educational programs, and technical support to the city. The new convention center under construction should give Spokane a competitive edge. Dwindling manufacturing jobs are being replaced by service and technical opportunities. Although problems remain in the areas of tax base, infrastructure, and public services, comparatively low wages and pockets of poverty, as well as aspects of city government, the future for Spokane looks encouraging. The city's designation by the National Civic League as an All-American City for 2004, the first time since the Expo year of 1974, indicates that cautious local optimism is justified.

The State of Washington
Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation

Spokane, 1940s

Advertisement for Spokane Interstate Fair, September, 1909

Elkanah Walker (painting by John Mix Stanley), ca. 1860

Courtesy Drury, Elkahah and Mary Walker

James Nettle Glover (1837-1921)

Courtesy Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture

Anthony Cannon (1839-1895)

Courtesy Tornado Creek Publications

Aftermath of Spokane Falls fire, August 4, 1889

Courtesy Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture

Howard Street and Riverside Avenue, Spokane, 1920s

Greetings from Spokane, 1930s

Civic Center, Riverside Avenue, west of downtown Spokane, 1930s

Downtown Spokane, 1930s

Fox Theater, Spokane, 1930s

Davenport Hotel and Restaurant (Kirtland Cutter, restaurant, 1900, hotel, 1914), Spokane, 1950s

Davenport Hotel (Kirtland Cutter and Karl Malmgren 1914 Lindquist Architects, 2002), Spokane, April 18, 2006

Otis Building, First Avenue, Spokane, August 18, 2010

HistoryLink.org Photo by Priscilla Long

Commercial, Norman, and Jefferson buildings, First Avenue, Spokane, August 18, 2010

HistoryLink.org Photo by Priscilla Long

Main entrance, Expo '74, Spokane's World Fair, Spokane, 1974

Riverfront Park, Spokane, August 18, 2010

HistoryLink.org Photo by Priscilla Long

Riverfront Park, Spokane, August 18, 2010

HistoryLink.org Photo by Priscilla Long

Sculpture The Joy of Running Together (David Govedare, 1985), Riverfront Park, Spokane, August 2009

Photo by Glenn Drosendahl

Browne's Addition, Spokane, August 18, 2010

HistoryLink.org Photo by Priscilla Long

Home, Browne's Addition, Spokane, August 18, 2010

HistoryLink.org Photo by Priscilla Long

Tilmont House, W 2014 1st Avenue, Browne's Addition, Spokane, August 18, 2010

Library databases contain reliable information that is generally not available elsewhere on the Web. For this class the following databases will be particularly useful. They can be found in the research databases section of the SCC Library homepage .

" Primary sources are the evidence of history, original records or objects created by participants or observers at the time historical events occurred or even well after events, as in memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include but are not limited to: letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, maps, speeches, interviews, documents produced by government agencies, photographs, audio or video recordings, born-digital items (e.g. emails), research data, and objects or artifacts (such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons). These sources serve as the raw materials historians use to interpret and analyze the past. "

Reference Books with Primary Sources

Located on the 1st floor of the library

  • Annals of America (R973 An72o)
  • American Reader: Words That Moved a Nation (R973 AMERICA)
  • Contemporary American Voices: Significant Speeches in American History, 1945 - Present (R973.92 ANDREWS)
  • Documentary History of the U.S. (R973 Heffner)
  • Encyclopedia of American Historical Documents (R973.03 ENCYCLO)
  • Encyclopedia of the American Revolutionary War (R973.303 ENCYCLO)
  • Eyewitness to America: 500 Years of America in the Words of Those Who Saw It Happen (R 973 EYEWITN)
  • First Encounters: Native Voices on the Coming of the Europeans (R909 FIRST E)
  • Founding the Republic: A Documentary History (R973.3 FOUNDIN)
  • Historic Documents (R973 HISTORI)
  • Milestone Documents in American History (R973 MILESTO) - online version available in the SCC Library'sSalem Pressdatabase
  • Representative American Speeches (R815.5082 R299a)
  • Voices of Civil War America : Contemporary Accounts of Daily Life (R 973.78 VOICES)

Primary Sources in Books That Check Out

Use the Search Box on the Library webpage to combine an historical event or period with words like: correspondence, diaries, interviews, personal narratives, sources, speeches, documents. Search examples:

The 1880s: Early Settlement & Pioneer Life

1880 marked the start of a time of great change in the Inland Northwest. The area currently home to Riverfront Park began a journey of steady growth, transforming open land into a small manufacturing town. The previous decade had seen Spokane’s first Euro-Americans settle along the south channel of the Spokane River, making their homes on the rocky banks. With new construction emerging amidst the small number of existing mills and cabins, the 1880s saw the beginnings of modern development along the Spokane River and the long journey toward the city of Spokane that we know today.

Downtown Spokane after the Great Fire of 1889
(NW MAC, JEF Research Archives, L86-1064)

The fledgling development surrounding the river drew new residents to the area, slowly increasing the population of Spokane Falls. Expanding industry and the growing number of people exposed the problem of accessing the islands in the middle of the river. Big Island, renamed Havermale Island in 1889, was a tempting place for development because of its central location in the middle of the Spokane River channels. This island, as well as the smaller one nearby originally known as Cannon Island, was only accessible by ferry, boat or canoe. Local residents soon chipped in to fund three bridge crossings. Completed in 1881, these bridges followed the path of Howard Street connecting both the north and south banks of the river to Big Island. With the lands in the middle of the river now connected to the mainland, commercial and industrial properties began to appear more readily throughout the area.

The area along the south bank of the river grew quickly in the early years of the decade. Ten structures of commercial, industrial and residential use occupied the land where the Looff Carrousel and Rotary Fountain sit today. Businesses in the vicinity included a stable, tailor, paint shop and two hotels – the California House and the Delmonico. One of the most prominent operations in the area was Spokane’s first commercial laundry facility, Spokane Steam Laundry, which arrived at this time and was located on Havermale Island near the Howard Street bridge. Adding to the growing industrial area, the New York Brewery occupied the corner of Washington Street and Front Avenue, now known as Spokane Falls Boulevard.

As the end of the 1880s approached, this area contained a wide range of industrial and commercial properties. The biggest of these operations was a large lumber mill. Originally known as A.M. Cannon’s Mill and later merging into the Spokane Mill Company, the lumber operation took up the majority of two blocks on the south bank of the river. In addition to lumber production facilities, the area included a shingle mill on Big Island, the National Iron Works factory, and Samuel Havermale and George Davis’ Echo Roller Mill.

With the continuing movement of new residents to the area, an immigrant population began to establish itself among the mills and industry. The developing Chinese community expanded over the course of the decade to include merchant shops, laundry services and a gaming facility. Despite a city ordinance prohibiting the distribution and use of opium opium dens were known to be located in this area as well. Multiple brothels operated in the blocks along the river, catering to the working men and immigrants far from home. Prostitution was a common occurrence in early western towns as few wives followed their husbands to rough mining camps and railroad towns. Furthermore, strict immigration laws prohibiting wives of Chinese laborers from coming to the U.S. meant female companionship was in high demand.

On August 4 th , 1889, the young community of Spokane was faced with disaster. Known as the Great Fire, flames swept through the wooden structures that made up most of the commercial core, destroying 32 blocks of the city’s downtown. The fire consumed structures as far as the north side of the Howard Street Bridge, in the process destroying the Spokane Steam Laundry. Buildings across three blocks in what is now Riverfront Park were destroyed with very few surviving. The New York Brewery on Washington Street was one that survived the flames while others, such as one of the city’s first hotels, the California House, suffered devastating amounts of damage.

First Monroe Street Bridge – built in 1888 ( Durham, Nelson Wayne, 1859-1938 –
History of the city of Spokane and Spokane County, Washington)

Echo Roller Mill, ca. 1885 – Teakle Collection. Northwest Room.
Spokane Public Library.


Most of downtown Spokane (then known as Spokane Falls) was destroyed by fire on August 4, 1889. The conflagration broke out in an area of flimsy wooden structures and quickly spread to engulf the substantial stone and brick buildings of the business district. Property losses were huge and one person died. After the fire, Spokane experienced the "phoenix effect" typical of many cities destroyed by fire, as fine new buildings of a revitalized downtown rose from the ashes. Accounts of the fire's origin and assignment of blame for its catastrophic expansion illustrate how historical myths begin and are perpetuated.

Smoke and Fire

The summer of 1889 had been hot and dry. On the afternoon of August 4, Adelaide Sutton Gilbert (1849-1932) complained in a letter from nearby Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, of temperatures in the nineties "for ever so long" and "dense smoke from fires all over Northwest" (Nolan, 13). Shortly after 6:00 that evening, the Spokane fire began. The most credible and enduring story of its origin is that it started at Wolfe's lunchroom and lodgings opposite the Northern Pacific Depot on Railroad Avenue. The Spokane Daily Chronicle of August 5 reported:

Other immediate newspaper accounts attributed the origin to a grease fire in Wolfe's notoriously dirty kitchen. This plausible interpretation has appeared most often in subsequent publications. Years later, Jerome Peltier collected "eyewitness accounts as well as legends of how the fire started" (Peltier, 19). All agreed on the general location, but varied widely as to the cause, including one assertion that it was a cigarette tossed into dry grass. Another story making the rounds was that the lamp that exploded in the upstairs room had been knocked over as "Irish Kate" fended off a drunken admirer.

The Fire Spreads

The flames raced through the flimsy buildings near the tracks. The nearby Pacific Hotel, a fine new structure of brick and granite, was soon engulfed in the wall of fire advancing on the business center. Church and fire station bells alerted the public and the volunteer fire department, which had formed in 1884 as the result of an 1883 fire. Because of insufficient water pressure for the hoses, they were unable to put out the fire. Spokane was no frontier town composed entirely of makeshift wooden structures, but the fire did start in such an area, where rubbish between buildings provided ideal tinder.

The fire consumed that part of the city and then moved on. "In quick succession the magnificent Frankfurt block, the Hyde block, the Washington, Eagle, Tull and Post Office blocks were feeding the flames. Besides the Pacific Hotel, every first class hotel was destroyed" (Chronicle, August 5).

Daniel H. Dwight's Desk

Daniel H. Dwight (1862-1950) was typical of the many people who raced from home to remove contents of their businesses ahead of the flames. A letter describes the futile efforts to save his office in the Opera House:

The flames jumped the spaces opened by dynamiting and soon created their own firestorm. In a few hours after it began, the Great Spokane Fire, as it came to be called, had destroyed 32 square blocks, virtually the entire downtown. The only fatality was George I. Davis, who died at Sacred Heart Hospital of burns and injuries when he fled (or jumped) from his lodgings at the Arlington Hotel.

Many others were treated at the hospital, where the nuns served meals to the newly homeless boardinghouse dwellers, mostly working men, plus others referred to in newspapers as the "sporting element." Estimates of property losses ranged from $5 to $10 million, an enormous sum for the time, with one-half to two-thirds of it insured.

Some of Spokane's leading citizens immediately formed a relief committee, and other cities donated food, supplies, and money. Even Seattle, just recovering from its own disastrous fire of June 6, sent $15,000. The National Guard was brought in to assure public order, to guard bank vaults and business safes standing amid the ruins, and to prevent looting. Mayor Fred Furth issued dire warnings against price gauging. Unemployed men immediately found work clearing the debris, and any who declined the opportunity were invited to leave town.

Businesses resumed in a hastily erected tent city. They included insurance adjusters, railroad ticket offices, banks, restaurants, clothing stores, and even a tent in which the Spokane Daily Chronicle carried on publication. The disaster did not bring out the best in some: One policeman and two aldermen (council members) were caught appropriating relief money and supplies.

Like many western cities devastated by fire, Spokane Falls rebuilt rapidly after the disaster. Within a year its population had risen to 20,000, a threshold that allowed the city to adopt a charter. In March 1891 voters approved the new charter, including an article that changed the city's name from Spokane Falls to Spokane.

Blame Placed and Replaced

Earliest newspaper accounts contained only one explanation for the weak water pressure and failure to check the flames: that Superintendent of Waterworks Rolla A. Jones was away fishing or working on his steamboat -- accounts vary -- instead of tending his post, and that he had left the pumping station in the care of an incompetent substitute. S. S. Bailey of the City Council claimed to have run "to the pumping station as soon as the alarm was sounded and found that Superintendent Jones had left a man in charge there, who, by his own admission, was totally incompetent to handle the machinery, not knowing how to increase the speed of the pumps" (Spokane Falls Review, August 6, 1889) Other papers as far away as The New York Times repeated this story almost verbatim.

To its credit, the City Council quickly appointed a Committee on Fire and Water to explore all possible reasons for the failure. Its report on August 14 exonerated Jones, but he resigned anyway. Refuting newspaper accounts, their report stated: "It appears that the man left in charge of [the] pumping station during the absence of Supt. Jones is competent and reliable and of twenty years of practical experience in machinery and pumps . ."

The committee attributed the failure of water pressure to a burst hose rather than dereliction of duty and further reported that some members felt "bad management on the part of the fire department should be considered as the main cause of such an extensive conflagration" (Nolan, 50). A Chronicle editorial of August 6 agreed: "The need of a good paid department is evident. It should be one of the first things provided for when the city gets on its feet." Although this official interpretation of events was made known, Jones's culpability was already firmly lodged in the public mind and has been repeated in publications ever since.

Other factors besides weak water pressure contributed to the extent of the disaster. No doubt lingering smoke from forest fires delayed widespread awareness of the fire. The blaze started in a trash-ridden area of flimsy wooden structures. There was no citywide siren system. The pumping station had no telephone. The volunteer firefighters had inadequate leadership, were poorly equipped, and had to haul their own hose carts. After the fire, the city prohibited wooden structures in or near the newly rising downtown, installed an electric fire alarm system, and established a professional, paid fire department, with horse-drawn equipment.

Myths of History

Although they corrected these problems, city fathers may have been less than zealous about dispelling the Jones story. Gina Hames analyzed the Spokane fire from the perspective of historical myth-making, and concluded: "

Taking the blame for a disaster the size of Spokane's could have meant political and social ruin for these civic leaders." And the people of Spokane "wanted a simple answer. . They, like most people, wanted simplicity . to be able to vent their anger in a single direction, rather than rationally discerning that the fault actually lay with no one entity. Even historians can fall into this trap of 'monocausation' -- finding a single, simple explanation published in the earliest accounts and then repeating it indefinitely thereafter"(Hames, 15, 16).

The State of Washington
Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation

After the Great Spokane Fire of August 4, 1889, guard and workmen preparing to open vault of First National Bank, Spokane, August 1889

Courtesy A View of the Falls

Report on August 4 Great Spokane Fire, August 6, 1889

Courtesy Spokane Falls Review

View of devastation after Great Spokane Fire, north from Railroad Avenue, Spokane Falls, August 1889


Offering keen competition to the technical skill of the Radio Repairmen were two omnipresent obstacles -- shortage of necessary repair items and working under adverse conditions. But these obstacles were not strong enough to hold back the expert repair and maintenance service the section rendered to the Division.

The peak of repair and production was reached when teams of the section took over control of one of the largest radio-producing factories in Germany and converted it to their own use. Production was continued, but this time for Uncle Sam.

Needless to say, there isn't a battalion or company in the Division for whom numerous repairs have been made on strange-looking GI radios. Many officers and men of the Division have brought their own sets around for check-up, hasty repairs, etc. And certainly all of these were not Special Service radios, either.

NWS Spokane Office History

The first weather office in downtown Spokane was at the Spokane Times Building as a Signal Service Corp office. Observations began in 1881.

Fires destroyed the office in 1884 and 1889. When the Weather Bureau took over, the office moved several times in downtown Spokane. It was at the Blalock Building, then the Jamieson Building in 1892.

The first Meteorologist In Charge, Charles Stewart 1880-1916 (left). The Jamieson Building around 1900 (right).

The weather office moved to the Empire State Building in 1908 and remained there for a few decades.

Empire State Building in the early 1900s

Weather Bureau - Felts Field

Weather observations moved to Felts Field in 1932. The standard weather balloon observations using helium began in August 1939. Meanwhile the Weather Bureau office moved all operations to Felts Field by January 1, 1941.

Felts Field in the early 1940s (left). Meteorologist In Charge, E.M. Keyser from 1916-1941 (right).

The Spokane Weather Bureau had a diverse staff with many duties, from surface to upper air observations.

Meteorologists view data from an airplane in 1935 (left). Evelyn Conan records weather balloon data in 1944 (right).

Weather Bureau - Geiger Field

The weather office moved to Geiger Field in December 1947.

Views of Spokane Weather Bureau at Geiger Field in the 1950s (left). Meteorologist In Charge, Robert McComb 1943-1957 (right).

Weather at Spokane International

The weather office moved into the terminal building of the Spokane International airport in May 17, 1965 and remained their through the 1970s. The weather balloon switched from helium to hydrogen in 1965.

Spokane Internal Airport Terminal Building in the 1970s (left). Meteorologist In Charge, Robert Small from 1957-1979 (right).

NWS Building at Spokane Airport

The office moved into it's own building on Nov 15, 1979 and stayed at this location until the mid 1990s. The Mt Spokane NOAA Weather Radio was installed in 1979.

A bird's eye view of the NWS Building at the Spokane Airport (right). Meteorologist In Charge, Ken Holmes from 1979-1994 (left).

NWS Spokane to Rambo Road

This move was the start of the NWS Modernization and more room was needed for the radar. While the airport location could not be sold to the NWS, Fairchild AFB had land available on Rambo Road.

This site on Rambo Road was a former communication building.

Office Construction

The office began construction in 1994 and finished in the summer of 1995. The change over from human surface observations to Automated Surface Observation System at the Spokane Office took place on September 1, 1995.

The framing of the office and finished building (left). Meteorologist In Charge, John Livingston from 1994-2016 oversaw the construction and the move of the new office (right).

Upper Air Observations

The upper air observations were moved from the airport to Rambo Road in September 1995. The first official weather balloon launch on Rambo Road was on September 22, 1995.

Doppler Weather Radar

The radar construction started in 1995 and completed in early 1996. The first and only weather radar in the Inland NW.

Weather Forecast Office

While the Spokane office had responsibility of its local warnings, The first forecasts and discussions originated from NWS Spokane in March 3, 1996.

NWS Spokane in the 21st Century

The NWS Spokane office is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We have a strong commitment to our partners and our community across the Inland NW.

September 2020 marks the 25th Anniversary of NWS Spokane on Rambo Road!

Here are images of the preliminary plans and stages of current office.

Answers to the little known questions about the NWS Spokane office

Why did the NWS Spokane office move from the airport?

So how did the National Weather Service wind up on Rambo Road? In the early/mid 1990s, the NWS went through an extensive modernization plan. The central idea of this plan was to install a network of new doppler weather radars across the county. The radars are sometimes referred to as 88D, which stands for "1988 Doppler". New NWS offices would also be built for nearly every new radar

At the time of the modernization, the NWS office was located at the Spokane International Airport in a building in the middle of a large parking lot. You can still see that old NWS building today. But placing a tall weather radar at a growing airport didn't seem like such a good idea. So an alternate location was needed for the radar

Fairchild AFB owned some land north of the base on Rambo Road which was no longer needed. The Air Force was happy to transfer ownership of this land over to the National Weather Service, and that became the location of the radar and the new office.

So why did Fairchild AFB own 20 acres of land a few miles north of the base?

We wondered that as well, until one day, we had a visitor drop by the office. He had worked at this location when he was in the Air Force. And he had the answer to our question. According to this gentleman, back in the Cold War days of nuclear testing, the Air Force had a method of monitoring the globe for nuclear detonations to determine if a country had conducted a nuclear test. The technology monitored certain radio frequencies. Unfortunately, there was just too much radio interference on the base. So a location was selected a few miles away which would avoid the interference and allow the Air Force to "listen" to these radio frequencies for nuclear testing. As the cold war and nuclear testing ended, the need for the monitoring station on Rambo Rd ceased.

When the land was signed over to the NWS, two abandoned buildings still remained on the property. In the initial plan was to use one of the buildings for the NWS office. Ultimately, the building was found to have asbestos and was instead demolished. However, a storage building from those early days still remains on site and in use today. You can see it on our web camera.

What changed with the new office on Rambo Road?

Prior to the modernization, the NWS had a structure where about one office in each state would do the forecast for the entire state. Some of the larger states had 2 offices, and some smaller ones were shared by one office. In the Northwest, those offices were located in Seattle, Portland, Boise, and Great Falls. Smaller offices (like Spokane) had responsibility for issuing a forecast for the local metro area. In addition, the main mission of the Spokane office was:

  • Taking hourly weather observations for the airport.
  • Launching weather balloons twice per day.
  • Issuing thunderstorm warnings for Spokane and the nearby counties.

The Spokane NWS office staff at that time consisted of an office supervisor, three Meteorologist Technicians, two Meteorologist Interns, and two Electronic Technicians. The meteorologists worked shifts around the clock, with one person always there taking weather observations.

The modernization changed the old "two tiered" profile to one where 124 "equal" offices divided up responsibility of the country, largely based on radar locations and coverage. This brought additional staff and new duties to the office. The current staff of 25 includes 15 forecasters, a hydrologist, an IT specialist, and additional support staff. While we no longer take weather observations, we continue to do the weather balloon observations. In addition, we are responsible for a much larger area that covers most of eastern Washington as well as the Idaho Panhandle, 21 counties in all.

When did the move take place?

Construction on the new building began in 1994. This was actually a little earlier than planned. But a large wildfire (Tyee Creek) in the central Washington Cascades that summer had caused NWS officials to move up the timeline of the office and radar construction. The office and upper air (weather balloon) buildings were completed in the summer of 1995. At that point, 4 additional staff members had already been hired and were crammed into the little building at the airport. So the administrative and support staff for the office moved into the new building on Rambo Rd in July 1995.

The operational forecasting and observation program remained at the airport for a short time. Weather observations up to this point were taken with human observers. A new technology called Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) was being installed at all airports, replacing the manual observations. The ASOS at Spokane Airport took over official surface weather observation duties at midnight, 1 September 1995. This allowed the operational meteorologists to move over to the new NWS building, officially beginning the start of operations at Rambo Rd.

The weather balloon launches still remained at the airport for a few more weeks. That program moved over to Rambo Rd later in September, with the first weather balloon launch taken on the afternoon of 22 September 1995. The radar would be constructed later that winter and went online in February of 1996.

The transfer of forecast duties from the Seattle and Boise offices took place in early 1996. The first official forecasts and discussions were released on March 3, 1996

Watch the video: Spokane History