Brothers Albert and William Wolverton built the first brick office building in Spokan Falls, the Wolverton Block, in 1881.
J.T. Davie, a young brickmaker from Scotland, made it possible. He heard about Spokan Falls – the original name and spelling – and headed north from California. His money took him as far as Fort Walla Walla, but he didn’t have the $10 stagecoach fare to Spokane. He struck out on foot.
After a month and a half on the trail, he reached Spokane on Nov. 15, 1879. The only bricks made in Spokane were so poor that no one trusted them for more than a chimney. Davie saw that the clay content was wrong, the bricks were stacked too close together in the kiln and the fires weren’t stoked properly. Davie talked himself into a job.
Working by himself in the summer sun, he could make 1,000 bricks, which sold for $10. Davie prospered and formed his own company. Almost a million of his bricks were laid in 1883. His bricks built the First National Bank and the first Gonzaga University building.
In 1888, his health suffered and he sold his business to architect and builder Henry Brook. The 1889 fire destroyed most of Spokane’s buildings, including the Wolverton. Davie came back to brick-making, but his business was dwarfed by the competition, including Brook’s company, Washington Brick and Lime, which made bricks, clay tile and decorative terra cotta in Clayton, Bayview, Dishman and Freeman.
The Wolverton was rebuilt after the fire but razed in 1946 to make way for the Newberry’s store.
– Jesse Tinsley
Late 1800s: The Wolverton Block was among Spokane’s largest single properties.
Present day: The northeast corner of Riverside Avenue and Wall Street is the former site of the Wolverton Block.