Bob Apple says it’s time for Hillyard to turn back the clock and rebuild on its past.
Apple, owner of the Comet Pub in downtown Hillyard, is pushing the latest effort in northeast Spokane to help once-flourishing Market Street regain its hustle and bustle.
Similar to efforts to help downtown Spokane, Apple and a dozen Hillyard shop owners want to revive an aging part of town so customers and window-shoppers keep coming back for more.
Apple, with the help of Spokane City Historic Preservation Officer Teresa Brum, will try to get Hillyard’s business district added to the National Register of Historic Places.
“The business owners here support it,” Apple said.
But they’re also cautious.
“We’ve had ideas to restore Hillyard before,” Apple said, “usually along the lines of making it an old West kind of street, not what we’re after now.
“They also know none of those efforts panned out.”
While downtown Spokane is aiming for a hip, modern tone, the Hillyard group wants to accent its history and dress up the buildings and Market Street with graceful art-deco touches such as period lamp posts and old mailboxes.
The plan is to define a four-block section of Market Street between Everett and Wabash as a coherent piece of Inland Northwest history.
If it earns historic district status, the Hillyard area would generate statewide publicity, plus earn possible grants to renovate streets and sidewalks, said Brum.
Apple and Brum selected the 17 buildings in the heart of Hillyard because they date from roughly the same period, the mid-1920s and 1930s, when Hillyard was as active and thriving as any city center in the state.
The brick- and concrete-walled shops, hotels and banks formed a “classic Western frontier town that catered to railroad travelers and working people,” said researchers from Eastern Washington University who conducted a historical survey of Hillyard for a graduate class.
The students unearthed old City of Hillyard stationary that read: “City of Shops.”
Apple said he’d like to resurrect that same energy with a little help and coordination.
Back when it started in the late 1880s, Hillyard was the area’s rail hub, selected by Great Northern founder Jim Hill to become the service link between St. Paul and Seattle.
The railroad in its prime employed 6,000 workers in Hillyard, creating a rollicking, vibrant community that kept banks booming and business owners smiling.
Annexed to Spokane in 1924, Hillyard’s fortunes declined as the railroad operations were reduced or shifted to other locations.
The Burlington Northern closed its last Hillyard maintenance shop in 1975, leaving the area in search of a commercial and social nucleus.
After struggling with a reputation for rowdiness, Hillyard has been rebounding in the past five years, Apple said.
The project Apple and others are undertaking would build on Hillyard’s growing reputation for second-hand shops and antiques.
Business owners already are noticing shoppers visiting Hillyard with Oregon and California license plates.
“People know we’re here, they’re making visits,” said Deana Tibbett, owner of the United Hillyard Mall at 5016 N. Market.
The plan is to make Market more attractive and user-friendly, Apple and Tibbett said.
The group also hopes to apply for federal money to enlarged curbs at intersections help slow down drivers and give pedestrians more space.
Getting on the national register confers benefits, said Brum, but it’s not easy. Submitting the application can take between nine months to a year.
If Hillyard gets on the historic district list, it would be the 11th such designation in Spokane County, Brum explained.
Just one Spokane commercial area is on the national list - the West Riverside Business District that includes the Spokane Chamber of Commerce and Spokane Club building.
A group of property owners near Gonzaga University also is seeking federal historic register status for the warehouse/loft apartment district.
The benefits of historic designation include:
Local bragging rights. Getting on the federal register adds status and allure to any part of town.
Potential tax breaks. Property owners can’t get federal money for building improvements just because their neighborhood is on the register. But if they invest 100 percent of the property’s value into renovation, they can get federal income tax breaks.
Government money to improve common areas. That includes such renovations as street lights or intersections lined with paving stones.
Brooke Plastino, an Eastern graduate student in history, took part in the EWU research project that studied Hillyard’s buildings this year.
He spent more than a month learning the history of the United Hillyard Bank, one of the district’s sturdiest buildings and owned by Lance and Deana Tibbett as the United Hillyard Mall.
Built in 1928 by architect Henry Bertlesen, an associate of famed designer Kirtland Cutter, the building still has most of the sturdy concrete and high-arched windows that made it a landmark, Plastino said.
Its interior - little of which has survived - was graced with Phillipine mahogany furniture and terrazzo floors.
“That bank was the pride of Hillyard,” he said. “It was just the second in the whole West with an open counter that we have in banks today. Up to then, banks had raised platforms with tellers behind bars.”
Plastino hopes his work helps revive Hillyard’s glory and erases negative perceptions.
“People can either rebuild on Hillyard’s great history and capitalize on it. Or they can raze the whole thing and put up a bunch of condos and a mall,” he said. “I’d sure hate to see it come to that.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 Photos (1 Color)
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Buildings get recognition on register By getting on the National Register of Historic Places, owners of businesses in Hillyard would gain recognition for buildings that are at least 50 years old and have historic or architectural significance. Getting on the register can involve months of review by state and federal agencies. But it’s not as hard as getting on the even-stricter list of National Historic Landmarks. That list is reserved for the country’s most important buildings and objects of lasting American cultural value - like the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. Hillyard’s Market Street applicants have two choices: the federal historic district register or the Spokane historic district list. The national list presents fewer restrictions on use of property, said Teresa Blum, the city’s historic preservation officer. At the same time, the local district list offers better tax advantages for property owners who qualify, said Brum. Federal district status allows an owner to apply for a credit given once against income tax. Those on the Spokane historic district list can earn up to 10 years’ reduction of local property taxes. Tom Sowa
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