For several decades, a collection of shacks lined the Spokane River downstream from the Monroe Street Bridge, beneath the trains that rattled along the rim of the gorge.
The squatters, all men, came and went, each selling his shack for a few dollars when he moved on.
Reporter C.R. Stark bushwhacked down the slope in 1945 and wrote about the settlement. “Shacktown. To many citizens of Spokane, it represents an eyesore, a blotch on the landscape that should be removed without ceremony and ordinances passed to make impossible ever to return. To the 20 men who live in the little cluster of shanties nestled on the bank of the Spokane River down under the Monroe St. Bridge, it represents one place in the community where man is supreme – there isn’t a woman living in any of the houses. And it represents home, the spot where they can do exactly what they want to do, when they want to do it, and no one is there to tell them to stop.”
Stark wrote that five of the 20 were pensioners, and others held regular jobs. Several spoke with foreign accents and some raised gardens and fruit trees. For the men, mostly former lumberjacks, railroaders or miners, “the cost of living is reduced to an absolute minimum.”
The shantytown was demolished in 1951 because of a concern over fire safety.
– Jesse Tinsley
June 7, 1945: This view of “Shacktown” looks east toward the Spokane Falls. When this photo was taken, 20 men lived in the shacks on the banks of the river, near the Monroe Street Bridge. The pier-like structure in the river was there to catch stray wood that would come down from the falls. The wood was dried and used for fires in the winter.
Present day: The site of a former shantytown west of the Monroe Street Bridge now sits vacant, except for some driftwood and refuse pitched from above.