Spokane sprang from the ashes of the great fire of 1889, and many distinctive structures, including the Review Tower, were built in early 1890s.
But building came to a screeching halt in the panic of 1893. Shaky financing of railroads, a run on gold supplies and hundreds of bank failures resulted in the worst recession the nation had seen. The city of Spokane was building a grand City Hall near the falls, and there was still optimism that the recession would be temporary.
With the former courthouse roof leaking, the county board held a contest to design the new courthouse on land north of the river donated by early settler David P. Jenkins. The building should cost no more than $250,000, and the winning designer would receive 5 percent of that amount.
W.A. Ritchie, a 29-year-old architect trained by correspondence course, took first prize. His design drew heavily on the 16th-century French castles of the Loire Valley, specifically Chambord and Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau. Kirtland Cutter came in second.
There were complaints that Ritchie’s design was too extravagant and a waste of tax dollars, but it moved forward. Construction took two years, and the courthouse opened in November 1895.
Jails and other administrative buildings have taken their place around the building over the years.
A major renovation of roofing, tower decks, brickwork and decorative terra cotta was completed in 2008.
– Jesse Tinsley
Photo Archive photo
1938: An aerial view of the Spokane County Courthouse.
Present day: Built in 1895, the Spokane County Courthouse is backed by the Public Safety Building and the county jail.