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Then and Now photos: North Division Street

Before bridges crossed the gorge in the 1880s, the Spokane River was a challenging obstacle for people on the north side of the Spokane. Some hardy homesteaders lived on the north banks, but there were few businesses. A ferry at Division Street run by Robert W. Forrest was in use before construction of bridges at Howard, Monroe and Division streets. North Side residents, who paid Forrest $1 for the ferry ride, raised money to build a wooden bridge in 1882. As other bridges were added, the North Side became a convenient suburb and business district. Steel beams replaced wood at Division in 1892, but in December 1915, the bridge collapsed under two streetcars and several people died. Conductor Murrow Davis told The Spokesman-Review many years later, “We were nearing the center of the span when suddenly, without warning, there was a shudder and almost instantly everything went black. A large steel girder from the collapsing bridge slashed across our car, cutting off everything above the seats. In the darkness there was nothing we could do, as the car quickly sank into the icy water, coming to rest on the bridge floor as it sank to the river bottom. All of us who made it were lucky to have come out alive. I shall never forget to my dying day the crashing steel, the awful sudden darkness lighted only by flying sparks made by electrical short circuits, and the screams of the injured and dying.” The city quickly repaired the steel structure, but after a petition drive, a cement structure was built in 1917. – Jesse Tinsley


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