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Dorothy Powers: Reopened Davenport taught Spokane to dream again

Dorothy Powers served for five decades as a Spokesman-Review columnist. (Spokesman-Review archives)
Dorothy Powers served for five decades as a Spokesman-Review columnist. (Spokesman-Review archives)

(This article was written in July 2002.)

Nobody can take away a dream and nobody did.

Rather, for 17 years, lots of us nurtured and guarded a mutual dream and fed it with hope.

The object of that dream – a gloriously refurbished Davenport Hotel – now turns the tables on us and bequeaths us the gift of a civic lifetime.

It is this: Spirit.

A new spirit for Spokane – a fresh civic morale – has been generated by the Davenport and handed to us as a legacy. Translate that word “spirit” to mean civic courage to achieve, and proven pride not only in what we have been, but in what we can be. The Davenport and its new-found glory throws us a challenge every time we look at it: to try harder, to toss our timidities, to dump our doubts, to “class up” how our city looks, to climb back up the ladder to top rungs.

But “spirit” is not the only gift we’re getting. The new Davenport teaches us the twin lessons of fortitude and faith, that if you toughly hang on and believe (yes, for 16 years) the miracle will come.

Our miracle has two names: Karen and Walt Worthy, the entrepreneurs who have resuscitated and restored Spokane’s landmark. Economic benefits for a wide area are obvious. Let’s concentrate instead on the intangibles that can change Spokane’s attitude forever, on the new ambience given our lives and those of visitors we may never meet, on the different city we can now create.

The value of the legacy?

It can’t be counted.

The Davenport re-routes us as a city running, not stumbling toward the future. Already it triggers our imaginations as this structure’s beauty pulls our eyes skyward as we walk in the city’s downtown.

Look back with me:

It was July of 1985 when the hotel sank to the blackness of closure. For almost two decades downtown felt – and showed – the loss of the Sprague Avenue landmark.

Each of us cherishes our own Davenport memories. Mine are precious to me, ranging over more than half a century – 59 years – to World War II. I was 21 years old. Now I’m 80. I’d been in Spokane as a starting reporter for only two months when friends, visiting from my native Montana, invited me to join them for dinner at the fabled Davenport on my dinner break from The Spokesman-Review. When I arrived at the table, there was a handsome young B-17 pilot named Elwood Powers, destined for Europe.

When he returned from the European Theater two years later in in 1945, we spent our wedding night at the Davenport. Another 43 years sped by and The Spokesman-Review gave my retirement banquet and ballroom dance for 400 on a blizzardy night in January of 1988 in spite of the fact that the hotel was closed.

During the years of closure, several owners tried valiantly to make the hotel a success, particularly the Sun International Hotels of Wai Choi Ng and brothers Patrick and Jeffrey. They were wonderful stewards, but were unsuccessful in completing their try.

Then came the magic makers – Walt and Karen Worthy, who bought the Davenport Hotel from Sun International for a reported price of $6.5 million.

But what now?

Simple.

We must now go on to make new memories!

How can we ever express our gratitude for the Davenport’s legacy to us?

Again, simple – by practicing the intangibles in her legacy: Spirit, fortitude, faith, belief in ourselves.

The last great gift: The Davenport literally has given Spokane back its youth.

We believe again, as once we did when we were young, in beauty recaptured.

We believe again in the big try. If you don’t quit trying, it doesn’t matter how old you were when your Davenport memories first were created. Give Spokane your best NOW.

We’ll dine again, dance again, laugh again at the Davenport, feel again as we did when the glamour came new to our town and to our hearts.

A galvanized spirit for Spokane now exists – a legacy from the Davenport Hotel.

Bless her!

The late Dorothy Powers, winner of numerous journalism awards, worked at The Spokesman-Review from 1943 until her retirement in 1988. She died in 2014 at age 93.


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