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Opportunity hall has been part of Valley’s story for 100 years

Thu., Sept. 27, 2012

Over the past 100 years, the city of Spokane Valley has grown and expanded. Sprague Avenue, once a two-lane dirt road, is now eight lanes of busy traffic. Houses along the street have given way to businesses.

The Opportunity Township Hall has watched all the changes from a front-row seat.

Spokane Valley Heritage Museum staff and volunteers and Spokane Valley residents celebrated the building’s 100th anniversary last week.

“The (city of) Spokane Valley is not the first local government in the Valley,” Mayor Tom Towey said during the celebration.

The building, at 12114 E. Sprague, was once the town hall of the Opportunity community. The township was founded in 1909 and the building erected in 1912, to little fanfare. Museum Executive Director Jayne Singleton said they didn’t have a ribbon-cutting ceremony when the building opened, so they had one to celebrate its centennial.

Towey told the crowd a little of the building’s history. Along with being the township hall, there were county park and recreation classes, senior activities and events held there. It was the first library in the Valley, and a spot for political debates – most notably, the debate between then-Speaker of the House Tom Foley and his opponent, George Nethercutt.

“It has been a vital part of our Valley community and history,” Towey said.

As for its present, Towey called the building a repository of the area’s history, with thousands of photos from the 1850s through today housed within its walls.

“I want to thank Jayne and her staff for keeping our heritage alive and meaningful,” Towey said.

Singleton said there aren’t too many buildings left from that time period in the Valley. She mentioned the old Dishman school and many of the houses, but along Sprague, the museum is one of the few left.

She said it has stood as a sentinel, watching history unfold in front of it, in a neighborhood that was once full of apple orchards, dirt roads and housing tracts.

It was built in 1912 on land donated by Modern Irrigation and Land Co., now Modern Electric. It was designed by Charles Harvey Smith in the Spanish colonial mission style, an unusual one for the area.

“Yes, the Valley has changed,” she said. “The building has been here and will continue to be here long after I’m gone,” she said.

Along with the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Singleton and her staff buried a time capsule containing a 1912 penny, a 2012 penny, newspapers from 1912 and today, and pictures from then and now. Singleton hopes someone will open the capsule in 50 years.

After the ceremony visitors were invited to look at the museum exhibits. The newest is “Colors of Patriotism,” which celebrates the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Navajo Code Talkers. The museum also has an exhibit marking the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Singleton and her team make an effort to find local ties to much larger events in history.

“I have the most awesome job in the Valley,” Singleton told the crowd.

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