This year’s National Preservation Conference, set to kick off in Spokane on Tuesday, is validation of the work that’s gone into saving the city’s historic assets.
From the Davenport Hotel and Fox Theater to residential districts more than a century old, Spokane has hundreds of buildings that are deemed historically significant.
Leaders of the National Trust for Historic Preservation saw that when they chose Spokane as the site of their annual convention this year.
“One of the things we look at is the preservation ethic in a community,” said Valecia Crisafulli, a vice president with the National Trust. “This is very evident in Spokane.”
As many as 1,700 delegates are expected to attend the convention, many of them from the Inland Northwest.
They will get a chance to visit Spokane’s remarkable historic preservation projects, and learn more about how the lessons learned here might apply to other communities.
In the process, Spokane may learn more about how historic preservation is becoming a destination in itself.
Kristen Griffen, Spokane’s historic preservation officer, said the work that’s gone into planning the conference has started teaching Spokane preservation leaders how to market heritage tourism. One of the conference sessions involves a discussion of drawing those heritage visitors.
“We’ve got things we can build on in Spokane,” she said.
Restoration of the Fox Theater is just one example of how a community can maintain its cultural heritage, Crisafulli said, but there are many others.
The keynote speaker at the convention will talk about how preservation fits into a modern consumer culture.
Spokane is a city that for years has been making the connection between its history and its people, Crisafulli said.
Scores of restaurants, shops and wineries are located in historic Spokane buildings – so many that people might forget they are participating in historic preservation just by walking in the door.
The result, Crisafulli said, “is a very vibrant and walkable downtown,” something that sets Spokane apart from other cities.
A special focus of the conference will be Native American heritage involving regional tribes.
The conference will be based at the Spokane Convention Center, but a number of its events will be in historic locations, including the Davenport and Montvale hotels, the Fox, the Steam Plant Brewing Co. and Bing Crosby Theater. Tours will carry people across the city and region.
Members of the public not registered for the convention may still attend several events: the opening session at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at the Fox; the conference powwow at 5 p.m. Thursday in Exhibit Hall A of the Convention Center; and the preservation awards ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday at the Fox.
Also, tours may be open to the public if space is available. Check with the registration desk at the Convention Center.