February 17, 2011 in City

Old fire dispatch center not eligible for historic list

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Spokesman-Review archives photo

Here’s the caption that appeared with this photo in March 1970: IN NEW QUARTERS. Busy today in the new alarm room of the Spokane Fire Department are (from the left) Ted E. Mills, chief dispatcher; Oscar L. Osgood, fire alarm operator, and Joe R. Blazek, trainee.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Spokane’s former fire dispatch center likely will meet the same fate as its next-door neighbor – the YMCA in Riverfront Park.

The Spokane City-County Historic Landmarks Commission decided Wednesday that the building is not eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, clearing the way for the city to demolish it.

The old dispatch center, just west of the old YMCA, was built in 1922 by Washington Water Power and first served as a storage vault for records.

Kristen Griffin, Spokane’s historic preservation officer, said large windows cut into the building, extensive remodeling inside and other changes make the structure ineligible.

“It was intended to store paper records,” Griffin said. “What this building was has been significantly changed.”

But some commissioners said the building helped tell the story of power generation in Spokane. Commission Chairman Jim Kolva said it was important to thoroughly review the proposal because it is a city-owned building and rules must be applied equitably.

“To me it’s a unique building,” Kolva said. “There aren’t any others like it.”

Kolva and commissioners Diana Painter and Jerry Baldwin voted against the motion ruling the building ineligible.

Deputy Utilities Director Gerry Gemmill said the city will try to coordinate demolition of the alarm center with the YMCA work already under way.

Under city demolition law for downtown structures, a ruling of historic registry eligibility would have complicated the city’s proposal to tear it down.

The city decided to move its fire dispatch center from the former City Hall to the storage vault along the middle channel of Spokane Falls in 1966, according to a Spokane Daily Chronicle report. Washington Water Power – now Avista – leased the building to the city rent-free. The utility company later transferred ownership of the site to the city as part of preparations for Expo ’74.

Firefighters were dispatched from the building from 1969 until 2004, when fire dispatch operations were transferred to a combined emergency communications center near Spokane Community College.

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