Stops include first skyscraper, area once called theater row
The historic buildings of downtown Spokane hold a rich history that few people get the chance to hear.
Maggie Cahalan said she grew up in their midst yet knows little about the stories found in their acclaimed architecture.
On Wednesday, Cahalan was among two dozen people who joined a historic walking tour sponsored by the Spokane chapter of the American Institute of Architects in honor of National Architecture Week.
“No one expects Spokane to have such a rich history,” said Cahalan, a graduate of Washington State University’s architecture department now working at Northwest Architectural Co. in Spokane.
Tour guide Jim Price said the Peyton Building on Post Street between Riverside and Sprague avenues was home to the original KHQ radio transmitter, and the station’s studio was in the Davenport Hotel.
The 1909 Post Office Building at 904 W. Riverside Ave. was previously the site of a track for bicycle races, which were very popular in the day, Price said.
He pointed out that the post office is actually two buildings with a matching portion completed on the north side of the original structure in 1941.
As chairman of the Spokane City/County Historic Landmarks Commission, Price is something of a purist.
Gesturing toward the 1900 Empire State Building, 1023 W. Riverside Ave., Price said, “It’s quite a handsome building if you overlook some of the modern adornments on the main floor.”
The old Clemmer Theater, now known as the Bing Crosby Theater, 901 W. Sprague Ave., was Spokane’s first movie house, he said.
Crosby sang there between movies in 1925 before leaving Spokane for Los Angeles that fall with musical partner Alton Rinker.
The Clemmer was financed by mining magnate August Paulsen, also known for construction of the two Paulsen Buildings at 407 and 417 W. Riverside Ave.
At 11 stories, the westernmost building was completed in 1908 and “was considered Spokane’s first skyscraper,” Price said.
Daughter-in-law Helen Paulsen lived in the family penthouse on the 16th floor of the easternmost building for 50 years until her death in 2007.
Rocky Rococo Pizza and Pasta, 520 W. Main Ave., was built in 1924 as the Ritz Theater, Price explained. Its historic interior can still be seen in the rear of the restaurant.
The Ritz was once one of five theaters in an area known as Spokane’s theater row, he said.
Linda L. Hooten, executive director of the Spokane architects chapter, said the tour called attention to the many smaller historic buildings.
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