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Spokane

Then and Now: Radio Central Building

Mon., Aug. 11, 2014

George Heidinger founded Eilers Music House in 1900, an era when pianos, sheet music and the Victrola were a booming business. Eilers moved to a seven-story building on the southeast corner of Sprague Avenue and Post Street in 1911.

Soon, however, a new medium, radio, began to supplant the sounds of the parlor piano. Spokane’s first radio stations opened in the 1920s and Louis Wasmer’s station, KHQ, moved into the top floor of the Eilers Building in 1926. In 1929, the Standard Stock Exchange moved in below and renamed the building. Because of Spokane’s importance in regional banking and industry, the later-renamed Spokane Stock Exchange rivaled San Francisco and Denver in the early years.

As an open-auction exchange, startup mining ventures could peddle their newly printed penny stock certificates to eager investors who hoped to strike it rich like Patsy Clark, August Paulsen or Levi Hutton. Visitors could sit or stand behind railings, smoke cigars and shout advice to brokers on the small trading floor while mining and railroad stock prices were scratched on giant chalkboard grids. Barron’s described the crowd like this: “To the casual visitor … the tough job is to distinguish the millionaires from the dreamers.”

Upstairs, Wasmer added another station, KGA, and bought the building in 1939, renaming it the Radio Central Building. The Radio Central Building and the Allen Building to the south were razed in 1971 to make room for the 16-story Washington Trust Bank tower, which opened in 1973, just in time for Expo ’74.

The stock exchange moved to the Peyton Building, but the Securities and Exchange Commission continued to investigate insider trading, as it had for decades, often by board members of the exchange. Volume declined as legitimate brokers took their business elsewhere, and the doors closed for good in 1991.


 
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