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Then and Now photos: Trent Alley

Former home to drugs, gambling razed for Expo ’74

While the western end of downtown Spokane was bejeweled with stately office buildings and fine theaters from the city’s early years, the east end of Jimmy Glover’s original city layout was somewhat seedy, almost from its beginnings in the 1880s. The completion of the transcontinental railroad left many Chinese and Japanese workers jobless across the western U.S., and some settled in the block bounded by Washington, Main, Bernard and what is now Spokane Falls Boulevard. It was called Chinatown, though there were also many Japanese residents, some of whom had fled coastal cities during World War II to avoid internment camps. Because Asian immigrants were generally unwelcome in Spokane society, most lived above and worked in noodle shops, laundries or grocery stores. There were also prostitution, gambling and opium dens in a notorious L-shaped courtyard called Trent Alley, which the local newspaper called “dens of vice that flourish like noxious weeds in the dark noisome alleys and the tangled ravines of the slums.” Even after Prohibition-era crackdowns on fan-tan gambling and drugs, it was still a skid row of bars, pawn shops and theaters until it was cleared in preparation for Expo ’74. The block is now a parking lot for the INB Performing Arts Center, also built for the world’s fair. –Jesse Tinsley


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