Spokane’s story began on the corner of Howard Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard.
Original settlers James Downing and Seth Scranton drove the first surveyor’s stake there in 1871. It was where city founder James Nettle Glover built his store and livery stables, seen at right in the photo above, in 1877.
A year later, William and Clara Gray, from California, built the California House hotel just to the east of Glover, providing much-needed rooms for travelers, workers and settlers.
The hotel opened with a festive and formal party on Thanksgiving Day 1878. A large, open room upstairs was dubbed “the corral,” where single men could bunk on bear and buffalo hides on the floor for 50 cents when all other rooms were filled. For several years, the California House was where visitors to Spokane spent their first night, including the Rev. Joseph M. Cataldo, S.J., the founder of Gonzaga University.
Clara Gray is remembered as a gracious and elegant hostess, presiding over the social hub of the downtown area. When miners struck gold in Murray, Idaho, in 1883, Spokane was mobbed by would-be gold miners and California House was full for months. Gold fever eased, however, and hotel prices went back to normal: room and board for about $6 a week. Travelers could get a room for about $1.50 a night.
The great Spokane fire in August 1889 claimed the hotel and many other buildings in downtown Spokane. Writer Bob Emahiser wrote a history of the hotel in a 1964 Spokane Chronicle article: “The dining room was a civic and social club. Gray administered judiciously as host to Indians and badmen, as well as military officials, railroad executives, mining men and others and boasted there was never a gunfight in the place.”
– Jesse Tinsley
Mid-1880s: This view of Howard Street looks south from the south edge of the river. The Howard Street Bridge, the first bridge in Spokane, is in the foreground. The intersecting street is Trent, now Spokane Falls Boulevard. The building to the left is the California House hotel, and on the right is the Glover Stables.
Present day: Looking south from Riverfront Park near the Howard Street bridge, the fountain sits on the spot where Spokane was born.