Landmarks: Hale Block had many names
Downtown Spokane is filled with wonderful old buildings having histories and stories dating to the city’s early days. Some of these structures are not in such great shape, but others have been refurbished and stand as functioning, useful buildings that give a nod to the past and promise for the future.
One such dusted-off and polished building is the especially attractive Hale Block at 231 W. Riverside Ave. Its north façade boasts a design feature not often seen in these structures: four two-story angled bay windows as well as a modillioned cornice and a center relief-lettered terra cotta name place in the frieze that spells out the building’s name. There are further embellishments on the cornice and frieze that add to the architectural attractiveness of the structure.
The unreinforced brick masonry building with central vaulted atrium was constructed in 1905 by developers Edward J. Young and Fred Zahn, who bought the land for $15,000 and financed construction for $25,000. In 1908 they sold the Hale for $100,000 to Michael Lang, who later became vice president of Fidelity Savings and Loan. From 1905 to 1960 the first floor was occupied by retail businesses, the first of which was Watson Drug Company. In 1909 the Hocking Drug Company leased that space and became the longest tenant, remaining until 1953.
The Hale, along with some 100 other single-occupancy hotels built around the same time, served to provide housing on its second and third floors for the working-class immigrants and Americans who were streaming into the region (the population grew threefold to more than 100,000 by 1910). It did so under the name of the Hale and later the Del Monte, the Lang, the Stone and the Kincaid hotels. By 1933 rooms rented for $25 a month and, according to listings in city directories, the hotel was renamed the Stanley Apartments and housed many servicemen returning from World War II.
By 1965, the apartments were all vacated. In 1968 the Lang family sold the Hale Block to Eleanor and Sylvan Dreifus, who operated their Sylvan Furniture Company in the Mearow Block building just to the east. After remodeling in 1977 the furniture company expanded into the Hale through the party wall shared by the buildings. The street-level fronts of the two structures were changed to incorporate a continuous design with one exterior entrance, now in the Hale Block.
In 2003 ConoverBond Development purchased the Hale Block and began a full renovation. Rob Brewster, ConoverBond president, said the building was ready by 2007 and now enjoys full occupancy. There are three businesses on the main floor – a bar, a photo studio and a hair salon – and the top two floors, like in the days of old, contain private residences. The 12 apartments are studios and one-bedrooms, two of which have a unique design element.
“The north two apartments, second floor and third, on the west side have a common wall with the Albert Building,” Brewster said. “There was a huge two-story cigar ad on that wall, and we just left it there, so those two units have portions of the ad remaining on their walls.”
There is another element to the Hale Block that might be familiar to many in the region. Though the official address is 231 W. Riverside Ave., it incorporates additional addresses from along the block, including the one from the old Sylvan Furniture ad jingles, the ones that touted “West two-two-seven Riverside.” A lot of old-timers probably can’t say that without the accompanying tune popping into their heads, Brewster suggested.
The Hale Block, on the Spokane and National registers of historic places since 2003, does have quite an interesting story to tell – including the fact that it is one of just 20 of the original 100 single-occupancy hotels in the east downtown area still standing.