July 18, 2009 in Washington Voices

Chips off old block

Buildings with long history giving way to new establishment
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

The buildings on the southwest corner of Sprague Avenue and Pines Road are being demolished to create space for a Rite Aid store.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Demolition began this week in the historic Opportunity block on the southwest corner of Sprague Avenue and Pines Road. Several old, run-down buildings on the corner are coming down to make way for a new Rite Aid store.

The tear-down is expected to be complete by mid-August and construction on the new store will start immediately if all the permits have been granted, said property owner Tom Hamilton. The new store should be done by the end of the year.

The former Walgreens (Bromling’s Pharmacy before that) came down first and next to go will be the old brick Opportunity State Bank, which failed during the Depression, said Spokane Valley Heritage Museum director Jayne Singleton. Next to it is the Odd Fellows hall, built in stages in 1909 and 1926. She isn’t sure when the bank was built, but she has a picture of the building from 1922 and a 1921 newspaper story about a fire on the block refers to the building. “Nobody kept records,” Singleton said.

In May 1921 a fire destroyed several businesses in wooden buildings. “The Odd Fellows building is the only building that survived the 1921 fire,” Singleton said.

Singleton, who runs the museum a few buildings down in historic Opportunity Township Hall, is sorry to see the buildings go. A fire damaged one several years ago. “I think of this as the heart of the Valley,” she said. “I know it would cost lots of money to refurbish. It’s very, very sad.”

Hamilton said he has owned most of the buildings for 30 years and bought the last, the Midway bike shop destroyed in a fire, five years ago. Any refurbishing would have run into the millions of dollars and in the end it’s cheaper to spend $5 million to

$6 million to tear them down and build something new, he said.

“They’ve been in bad, bad shape for many years,” he said. “I bought them with the idea of owning a corner and building there.”

But there is a glimmer of excitement for Singleton. The contractor doing the demolition has promised to try and retrieve the cornerstone from the Odd Fellows Hall and a time capsule hidden there dating from 1923.

“It’s a great opportunity for the community to look back in time,” she said. “It’s very exciting. Hands haven’t touched that in 83 years.”

An old newspaper article lists the contents of the capsule as a copy of the lodge’s history and a list of charter members, but Singleton is hoping other items will be there as well. “History always yields surprises,” she said.

She balances that excitement against her sadness at seeing the buildings go. “These buildings have stood like sentinels,” she said. “It’s bittersweet.”


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