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Landmarks: Former Salvation Army headquarters finds new life as restaurant

The former Salvation Army Building, at 245 W. Main Ave., was built in 1921. It is now Luigi’s Italian Restaurant. (Dan Pelle)
The former Salvation Army Building, at 245 W. Main Ave., was built in 1921. It is now Luigi’s Italian Restaurant. (Dan Pelle)

Luigi’s Restaurant at the eastern edge of the downtown Spokane business district is one of those distinctive buildings easy to recognize, courtesy of its vibrant red brick exterior, original marquee and arched windows with white borders and decoration.

Located at 245 W. Main Ave. and listed in 2000 on both the Spokane and National registers of historic places, it was once the headquarters for the Spokane Salvation Army, where vital community aid services were provided for more than 60 years – providing practical help for those in need, including housing for itinerant men and boys, church services, war relief efforts, boys clubs, free health and legal services, meals and more.

Founded in 1865 as an organization to help the poor and homeless and to spread spiritual salvation, the Salvation Army first came to Spokane in 1891 and began its work in the same neighborhood where it would erect its headquarters building in 1921. According to research by historic preservation consultant Linda Yeomans, the lot was purchased in 1919 for $40,000 and a two-year campaign raised $125,000 to build the structure.

Spokane architect Archibald Rigg, who also designed the original St. Luke’s and Shriners hospitals on Summit Boulevard, Edgecliff Sanatorium and many other buildings in the area, was hired to design the headquarters. The general contractor was Frederick Phar, whose most prominent work may be the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Spokane’s South Hill.

With 7,000 square feet on each floor, the old Salvation Army building has a partially finished basement, a courtyard or lobby area, first floor, mezzanine and two upper floors. A gymnasium and shower facilities were located in the basement as was a kitchen. There were rooms for classes, church services and assemblies on the mezzanine and first floors, while offices and free legal and health services were on the second floor. A portion of the second floor and the entire third floor were designed as a workingman’s club or hotel – known as the Red Shield Hotel, providing single-occupancy space at a nominal cost for 53 men.

The doors were open to anyone needing help, and one newspaper article stated that the Salvation Army “has been the city’s pioneer cornerstone in social service work …” achieving “a record of practical Christianity with its crusade of ‘soup, soap and salvation.’ ”

The Salvation Army moved its headquarters to the Logan neighborhood in 1972 and sold the building the next year. It was used by subsequent owners as a home for itinerant men and then as a tavern. It stood vacant for many years until it was purchased in 1999 by Marty and Jennifer Hogberg. Marty Hogberg, who previously had been associated with the St. Regis Café and the Italian Kitchen, said he’d always loved the building and he and his wife jumped at the chance to buy it.

But it wasn’t easy. Years of sitting idle had been hard on the building. Nearly 90 percent of the windows had to be replaced, “and we took 177 dump loads of lath and plaster and other material out,” Hogberg said. They also replaced all of the stained glass panels in the windows, purchasing Tiffany glass from Chicago. Committed to the historic preservation of the building, they worked with architects Ron Tan and Marv Moore to retain from the original all that was possible.

What is notable about the architecture of the building are its arched windows and marquee. The contiguous row of arched tripartite windows on the north façade wrap around to the west side, the unusual element being that they are at street level rather than the more common-practice design of having them on the top floor. Very few of Spokane’s older building in the central business district have retained their original marquees, but along with those at the Davenport Hotel, the old Globe Hotel, and the Crescent Court (former Crescent department store), the old Salvation Army building still has its marquee.

Today, the basement provides storage and office space for Luigi’s; the courtyard is used as banquet space for the restaurant; the first floor serves as the main dining area; the mezzanine is used for catered events and restaurant overflow; and the upper stories have been designed as office space for other businesses. Hogberg said he is seeking distillers or brewers who might be interested in locating their businesses in the basement, which has the advantage of high ceilings. Office space is also available on the upper floors.

One treasured item remaining from the tavern days of the building is the 1897 Brunswick backbar. “I can’t prove this for certain,” Hogberg said, “but I was told it came from the gambling club and bar that Wyatt Earp operated in Seattle in 1899.”

In showcasing the history of the building and as a way to connect the past with the present, just inside the restaurant Hogberg prominently displays a 1949 photo of a Sunday school class held in the building.

“Even today, there are elderly people who come in and recognize themselves in that picture,” Hogberg said. That always leads to reminiscences about the building and all the good that happened there. And there’s a personal connection for Hogberg himself, as one of those children in the picture turned out to be Hogberg’s best fishing buddy, 77-year-old Don Ostlund.

“We both got quite a kick out of that.”