August 25, 2014 in City

Then and Now: A storied intersection


The history of the intersection of Howard Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard is the story of Spokane:

1871: J.J. Downing and S.R. Scranton settle by the Spokane Falls and build a water-powered mill.

1873: Downing and Scranton sell out to newcomer James Glover, who builds a store and stables nearby.

1878: The California House hotel opens there, hosting miners, missionary priests, railroad builders and new settlers.

1889: The hotel, now called the Windsor Hotel, is destroyed in the great fire.

1894: A resurgent Spokane builds its castle-like new city hall.

1902: New rails are laid to the new Great Northern Depot on Havermale Island.

1909: The city agrees to vacate the city hall for the Union Pacific, which is building the Union Depot nearby.

1971: After many decades of use, demolition begins on the depots and the associated rails to prepare for the world’s fair.

1974: Expo ’74 opens to much fanfare and little trace of the former railroad complex. Afterward, the site becomes Riverfront Park.

Today: Forty years later, the city is asking voters to decide in November whether to authorize the use of expiring park bond money to upgrade Riverfront Park.

– Jesse Tinsley

Circa 1905: Spokane’s city hall was built in 1894 at Howard and Front Street, near the falls, where it stood until 1909. The Union Pacific bought the site from the city fathers and tore the building down to construct tracks through the area to connect to the Union Depot to the east.

Circa 1972: The makeover in the early 1970s of the former railroad complex was the most radical change to the area. Preparation for the Expo ’74 world’s fair included the demolition of the Union Depot, most of the Great Northern Depot and the associated railroad tracks.

Circa 1914: This postcard image shows the Union Pacific elevated rails along Front Street. Interestingly, the clock tower of the Great Northern Depot, behind to the left, is not pictured, perhaps obscured by an artist who was affiliated with another railroad.

Jesse Tinsley photo Buy this photo
Present day: The intersection of Howard Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard, previously called Front and Trent, was the epicenter of downtown Spokane, where pioneers settled and began planning the city. Today, it is where most people enter Riverfront Park on foot.

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