The huge chimney standing alongside Interstate 90 on Spokane’s Sunset Hill has Amy Hoyt’s name written all over it.
She’s determined to save this relic of the city’s past.
“It’s a passion I have,” she said.
The 105-foot landmark was built by Hoyt’s grandfather about 1916 to heat a large nursery complex that stood until a few years ago. The stack is all that remains.
High up the stack’s east side are yellow letters done in brick. They spell out Hoyt’s, the original name of the nursery.
To Hoyt, saving the big stack runs deeper than historic preservation. This is a sentimental symbol of her family’s pioneer roots, and a grandfather she never knew.
It’s also a monolithic reminder of Spokane’s long-standing affair with gardens and plants.
Hoyt is seeking to place the stack on the National Register of Historic Places, but there is a chance it could be torn down.
The smokestack and several acres surrounding it are for sale. Hoyt is offering to buy the land to save the stack. So far she’s received no response.
She said she would like to turn the land into a natural area.
The owners are a partnership affiliated with the Rothrock Co. of Spokane. Hoyt said they want to sell the land for commercial development. The Hampton Inn was built on an adjacent parcel several years ago.
Rocky Rothrock, head of the company, was unavailable for comment last week, but a spokeswoman said he hopes to save the stack if possible.
Hoyt, who grew up in Southern California, moved to Spokane a year ago and bought a country-style home bordering the chimney property, in part to be close to other family members.
The neighborhood is occupied by descendants of the Hoyts, as well as the Moncalvo family. The Moncalvos bought the complex in 1929 and ran it for years as Garden Springs Greenhouse.
Smokestacks are not the most obvious candidates for historic preservation, but they can be saved.
An old stack at the former Armour meat plant near Trent and Freya was incorporated into the landscaping of a business park that now occupies the site.
There has been talk for years about preserving the Garden Springs stack, said Matthew Lund, a Spokane contractor who specializes in brick repair.
“I’m all for saving anything old like that,” said Lund, who estimated it would cost $18,000 to fix and put a brick sealant on the stack. “We can make it look like brand new.”
A scaffolding could be erected around the stack. Bricks from the top rows would be removed and remortared.
Otherwise, the stack is structurally sound, he said.
“It’s kind of cool. You drive up the highway and there’s this smokestack in the middle of a field. It’s like a giant barbecue pit,” Lund said. “They just don’t build stacks like that anymore.”
It is believed the stack was built by three English brick masons who traveled the United States looking for work, Hoyt said. The bricks probably came from an old plant at Vinegar Flats along Latah Creek.
The stack is 9 feet in diameter and rests on concrete about 4 feet deep. The circular wall is 32 inches thick at the base.
The nursery itself was in business as early as 1892, according to an old city directory.
Hoyt’s grandfather, William S. Hoyt, and his brother, the Rev. Frederick Hoyt, started as partners and eventually ran two nursery complexes in the same area.
The stack at the smaller of the two complexes was torn down.
As many as a dozen greenhouses were heated by the boiler at the site of the existing stack.
Nurseries were in their heyday prior to World War II. In 1940, nursery owners celebrated the 50th anniversary of a trade association in Spokane. At the time, there were 35 commercial greenhouses in the city.
Roses, tropical plants and perennials were especially popular during the era.
The cost of heating the greenhouses apparently led to the demise of the Garden Springs complex, which was torn down a few years ago when no one wanted to lease it from the owners, she said.
Hoyt grew up in California knowing little of her heritage in Spokane.
She came here on vacation a year ago hoping to find some surviving relatives in her large extended family.
After meeting cousins who live near the smokestack, Hoyt said a force within her caused her to suddenly decide to move here.
Above all, she wanted to be with family.
“I’ve been absolutely driven,” Hoyt said. “It’s a way to connect with the grandparents I never knew.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo