Although explorers, traders and missionaries had traveled on horseback through the area since the early 1800s, the first white settlement at Spokane Falls was in 1871. James Glover built a store beside the falls in what is now Riverfront Park, selling food and goods to the soldiers who were fighting wars against the Nez Perce and other Indian nations. He also wisely bought government claims to acres of land before the Northern Pacific Railroad arrived in 1881. Gold was discovered in the Coeur d’Alene mining district soon after, and Spokane became the regional transportation center. Then came the Great Northern in 1892; its elegant depot and clock tower were built in 1902. With the addition of the Union Pacific and the Milwaukee Line, Spokane was the hub of four transcontinental lines. Downtown became a maze of bridges, trestles and rail crossings, so the Northern Pacific rails were raised onto a viaduct in 1915 to allow automobile traffic to flow north and south. The lines near the falls were all vacated to prepare for Expo ’74.
1910: This image, looking southeast from the tower of the Spokane County Courthouse, shows the maze of rails and bridges surrounding Spokane Falls in downtown Spokane.
Present day: The same view from the courthouse tower shows Spokane Falls and Riverfront Park in front of downtown Spokane.