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Dutch Jake’s Park will get extensive renovations, though probably not its namesake’s cannons

The wedding of Jacob “Dutch Jake” Goetz needed just two things, besides him and his bride, Louisa.

Dynamite and champagne.

“Imagine a wedding march played on dynamite sticks,” said Harry Baer, Goetz’s longtime mining and hotel business partner, of the event, which attracted nearly 700 miners in North Idaho. “They shot them off like firecrackers and strung them together to save time.”

Dynamite won’t be needed for the renovation of the West Central Spokane park named in Goetz’s honor, which recently was fully funded through a mix of donations, federal grants and city parks funding. Champagne, anyone?

Dutch Jake’s Park, at Broadway Avenue and Chestnut Street, is one of Spokane’s smallest parks. Opened in 1976, the unpolished lot-sized park has a reputation as being more of a hangout than playground. The city will begin public outreach and design this fall, and officials expect the park to be completed in 2019.

After the more than $400,000 is spent – a combination of $60,000 in federal Community Development Block Grants, $150,000 in parks funding and a $200,000 anonymous donation – the park will look very different.

“Dutch Jake’s is just such a good story,” said Garrett Jones, the planning and development manager at the parks department. “This was our first mini park in Spokane.”

Built during the era of Expo ’74, the small park has a similar, outdated feel to Riverfront Park, which was constructed for the world’s fair. Now that the downtown park is under renovation, thanks to the $64 million bond approved by voters in 2014, city officials thought a revamp of its tiny companion would be fitting.

A master plan for the renovation to Dutch Jake’s was developed by 13 undergraduate urban planning students as their senior capstone project at Eastern Washington University, under the tutelage of Professor Gregg Dohrn.

Their plan offers three alternatives, with varying costs. The alternative with the most significant changes recommends a new pavilion, relocating the basketball court and redesigning the park’s pathways. All three concepts call for the removal of shrubbery and fencing while adding more lighting, a solution to the “challenges” facing the park, Jones said.

“We want the community to take back the park,” he said.

The students developing the master plan worked closely with Traci Ponto, the Spokane Police Department’s West Central neighborhood resource officer.

The students cited concerns about crime and drug use from the park’s neighbors. According to police department statistics, nearly half the crimes committed in the park between 2007 and 2015 were theft and assault.

Another fifth of crimes were categorized as malicious mischief, the wanton destruction of property. Drugs accounted for just 5 percent.

Dutch Jake and Baer were no strangers to vice. They made a fortune in the Bunker Hill and Sullivan mines of North Idaho, and Goetz’s wedding foretold a future of throwing big parties. The men plowed their money into building a modern hotel-casino-saloon in Spokane, which burned down in the Great Fire of 1889.

With no insurance, their little remaining money went to the biggest circus tent they could find in Portland. They founded a new business in the charred city core. The tent sign read, “Dutch Jake’s Beer Garden – Frankfurt, Milwaukee Beer on Draught, Chop House, Cigars and Tobacco.”

Money flowed again. Up to 1,000 men filled the tent, who were in turn filled with beer and food. Poker and a large, colorful “Wheel of Fortune” competed for the idle gamblers’ attentions.

At 3 p.m. on a recent afternoon, 15 people at Dutch Jake’s Park found no such distractions in the 93-degree heat. Laying on the grass in the moving shade, they waited for the temperature to ease. Some spoke of growing up in the neighborhood and how little the park had changed. Others mentioned how they tried to keep the park clean. Still more sat quietly. No one expressed fear that they would no longer be welcome.

But as Jones said, many neighbors avoid the park, something the city hopes to change with more community events, more lighting and new structures for kids to play on.

The park stands on the site of Baer’s house. Goetz lived a few blocks to the north, on Gardner. The men built a new hotel in Spokane following the fire’s ravaging, which eventually became the Hotel Coeur d’Alene.

The men became respectable businessmen. Goetz, however, couldn’t ever shed his rambunctious side. He loved to fire his cannons off the hotel rooftop, a practice remembered long after his death in 1925.

As the park bearing his name is remade, dynamite won’t be needed. But cannons, why not?


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