August 20, 2009 in Washington Voices

Marketplace may thrive again soon

By The Spokesman-Review


Landmarks features historic sites, buildings and monuments that often go unnoticed – signposts for our local history that tell a little bit about us and the region’s development.

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The building is all boarded up now and pretty run down, but if the owners’ plans come together, the old St. Paul Market building at 2023 W. Dean Ave. will again become a lively “third place” in the city’s West Central neighborhood.

Third places are locations within residential areas where neighbors can get together – first places being peoples’ homes and second places being work sites. Third places were much more prevalent within neighborhoods in the early 1900s.

The St. Paul Market served as just such a place for many decades.

It was built in 1905 near the corner of Dean and Chestnut Street, which at the time was at the edge of the city, before the adjacent Nettleton’s Addition was platted. The 25-by-60-foot building was built with balloon-frame construction with a brick masonry veneer, flat roof, ornamental tin parapet and brick cornice. Originally, it had a central split-entry door with wood-framed glass merchandise windows on each side, just below large clerestory windows that let in additional light.

It was built by Danish immigrant Julius Danielson, who came to Spokane around 1900 and opened a butcher shop in the city in 1903. Two years later, he moved his family-owned butcher shop, named the St. Paul Market, to the West Dean address, where the family kept the business until 1936. Subsequent owners expanded operations to include groceries, and in the 1950s it was renamed the Dean Avenue Market, continuing as a retail food business into the 1960s.

The St. Paul Market had a unique standing in the West Central neighborhood. There were several markets in the area, but most were built on busy streets like Broadway and Boone avenues. The St. Paul was embedded within the residential neighborhood itself, surrounded – as it is today – by homes and within easy walking distance for families.

Individuals and groups would gather at the building for social and civic purposes. One of the most significant third-space uses of the building began when the St. Paul Market opened in the spring of 1905 and a neighborhood church began holding services in the basement. That church group became the Westminster Presbyterian Church – now located at 2705 W. Boone Ave. – which celebrated its 100th anniversary of service to the West Central community in 2005.

The vacant St. Paul Market was bought in 2006 by Robert Jennings and Jeffrey Gilson for $50,000. “This is our first venture in rehabilitating a building,” Jennings said. “It’s a small project we felt we could handle.”

They sought (and succeeded) in attaining a listing for the structure on the Spokane Register of Historic Places and are now seeking financing and getting quotes on their plans for the building, which retains almost all of its original design, materials and workmanship – including the original wood floor, despite the modifications that took place over the past 100 years.

“We want to develop the front half into commercial space fit for a small neighborhood retail business and will turn the back half into a residential space,” said Jennings, a third generation Spokanite who earned a degree in urban planning from Eastern Washington University. “First, we need to do some masonry work on the exterior, which I hope we can get going on this fall. If all goes well, we might be able to rent it out next year.”

And they may turn the adjacent lot, which they also own, into a garden space, as some neighbors have already expressed interest in having such a space available to them.

Now the community development director for the city of Cheney, Jennings said he is interested in how cities develop and is concerned that there is a distinct lack of third spaces within neighborhoods, something he’s trying to remedy with the St. Paul Market.

“My hope for the building is that it becomes a positive place for the community, a place that gives back to the neighborhood,” he said.

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