The twin stacks of the Central Steam Plant were completed in 1916 by the Merchants Central Heating Co.
The 225-foot stacks used 333,340 bricks and extended above the elegant facility designed by Kirtland Cutter and Karl Malmgren. The plant lost money until it was purchased by Washington Water Power in 1919.
The boilers, powered mostly by coal but also wood, natural gas and electricity over the years, sent steam through a maze of pipes to heat downtown buildings for 70 years. In 1986, the plant was in need of extensive repair and deemed too expensive to fix and operate.
After a decade of the plant sitting empty, developer Ron Wells teamed with Washington Water Power, now Avista Corp., to remodel the industrial facility into offices, restaurants and public spaces, preserving the piping and girders, and making use of the cavernous interior.
Wells and Co. connected the steam plant to the Seehorn Building, a former warehouse built in 1890, with a new high-tech structure called the Courtyard Building. The updated complex is now called Steam Plant Square.
– Jesse Tinsley
1930s: This image by an unknown photographer looks northeast from near Fifth Avenue and Jefferson Street and shows Spokane’s skyline.
Present day: The same view shows the smokestacks of the former Central Steam Plant. The 225-foot stacks are taller than most downtown buildings.
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