Imagine a newcomer to Spokane stepping off a train in 1928 and turning west onto Riverside Avenue at Monroe Street and taking in the panoply of buildings that rival the storied cities of Los Angeles or Chicago.
Then it was called the “civic center,” and today it is known as the Riverside Avenue Historic District.
When Spokane burst from the ashes of the 1889 fire, a cadre of talented and creative architects, such as Herman Preusse, Kirtland Cutter and John K. Dow, rebuilt the city’s banks, hotels and department stores.
After the turn of the century, churches, fraternal organizations and social clubs began construction of their own buildings, including the Spokane Club, the Masonic Temple, the Elks Lodge and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, all underwritten by the wealth of silver mines, railroads and real estate.
The Elks Lodge and Masonic Temple emptied over the years and were sold, but the architecture still testifies to the grand dreams of Spokane’s first generations.
– Jesse Tinsley
June 5, 1928: This view shows Spokane’s civic center, the stretch of Riverside Avenue where clubs, churches and lodges were built. On the left side of the street you can see the Touraine Hotel annex, the Western Union Life building and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes. On the right, nearest to farthest, are the Spokane Club, an empty lot (future site of the Chamber of Commerce building), the Masonic Temple, the Elks Lodge and the Smith and Co. building.
Present day: Looking west from the raised colonnade of the federal courthouse, the Riverside Avenue Historic District is obscured by mature trees. On the left side of the street are the Spokesman-Review Production Facility, the Chancery (originally the Western Union Life building), and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes. On the right side are the Spokane Club, the Chamber of Commerce building, the Masonic Temple, the North Coast Life building (formerly the Elks Lodge) and the Smith and Co. building.