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Public transit turned Spokane into urban center

Mon., Jan. 9, 2012

Then and Now photos: Streetcars

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

– Jesse Tinsley

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