January 9, 2012 in City

Public transit turned Spokane into urban center

Then and Now photos: Streetcars
Photo archive photo

August 1936: Spokanites bid farewell to the old streetcars owned by Spokane United Railways in a downtown parade. The last car in line, No. 202, was cremated at Natatorium Park following the parade, ending an era in city transportation.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

The streetcar parade of 1936 marked the end of an era and showed that Spokane held its lumbering streetcars in great affection even as the public bus, more versatile and efficient, took over the role of people mover. Since the 1890s, horse-pulled, and later electric, trolleys had trundled along rails laid in the middle of streets, picked up workers and housewives from nearby neighborhoods and brought them downtown to work, shop, see a movie or have a soda. Real estate developers laid rails to new housing areas to entice buyers. Public transit allowed Spokane, the former frontier train stop, to become an urban center, where those without a healthy horse or personal motor car could participate in modern city life. Washington Water Power ran the electric streetcar system, which spawned Natatorium Park, an amusement center on the Spokane River.

On the Web: Find more historic photos and present-day comparisons at spokesman.com/then-and-now.

– Jesse Tinsley

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