The driving force behind the creation of Expo ’74 is being recognized with the naming of a pathway in Riverfront Park, the site of Spokane’s famed world’s fair.
King Cole, who led the effort to bring the world to Spokane, was the honored guest during a dedication of King Cole Way Friday at a footbridge adjacent to the floating stage where President Nixon opened the fair 34 years ago. The bridge had been dedicated as King Cole Bridge in 1994, and a sign declaring it as King Cole Way is being installed there, too.
Cole appeared wearing an Expo tie and lapel button, and said there is no question the most important legacy of Expo was the creation of a park where transcontinental rail lines once served the city.
But the significance of railroads to the city’s prominence cannot be underestimated.
Rail service during the late 19th and early 20th centuries transformed Spokane into an economic capital for the region. The park Clocktower and a rock wall along the river next to it are remnants of the demolished Great Northern Railway depot. Lines in the tower’s brickwork show where the depot building joined the tower.
For now, King Cole Way will remain an undefined feature of the park because of disagreement among parks officials about naming pathways in the park.
Nancy Goodspeed, park spokeswoman, said some officials don’t want any names on park pathways while others want all of the paths named and identified with signs. As a result, King Cole Way exists at the bridge, but officially does not extend deeper into the park, she said.
Among those who showed up for Friday’s dedication was former Spokane Mayor Sheri Barnard.
“King Cole is just a hero in this town,” she said.
Ed Clark, who was emcee at Friday’s ceremony, lauded Cole for his vision and courage.
He described the former rail presence there as gritty, dirty, ugly and loud.
Spokane is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Riverfront Park’s emergence from the Expo site.
Fifteen members of the Cole family, city officials and former members of Cole’s Expo staff attended Friday’s ceremony.