There are so many historic buildings in downtown Spokane that it’s hard to choose the best ones.
Here is a list of the best ones as chosen by The Spokesman-Review in consultation with two experts – Dave Shockley, a founder of the Spokane Preservation Advocates and its current executive coordinator, and Linda Yeomans, a leading preservation consultant who has written numerous historic register nominations for downtown buildings.
Asked for the top historic building, Shockley thought for a moment. “I think it’s the Davenport Hotel,” he said.
Yeomans agreed: “If we go with exterior and interior, I would have to say the Davenport.”
The ornate 1913 Davenport Hotel at 10 S. Post St. was the work of renowned architect Kirtland Cutter for famed restaurateur and hotelier Louis Davenport.
Its exterior uses rustic Boise sandstone topped by terra cotta ram’s heads over the third floor. Florentine windows decorate the original top floors with diaper-patterned brickwork.
The interior is where the Davenport shows off with its Spanish Renaissance style, opalescent glass skylight, carved wood, central marble fountain and massive fireplace.
Being so accessible to the public is one of the Davenport’s great charms. Walt and Karen Worthy finished restoration and reopened the hotel in 2002.
Also having a great public presence is the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox at No. 2.
Built in 1931 in the depth of the Great Depression, the Fox Theater at Sprague and Monroe became a place to escape the state of the economy back then.
According to the city of Spokane’s heritage walking tour, “Anthony Heinsbergen, one of Hollywood’s most sought-after interior designers, created the one-of-a-kind Depression-era murals” on the walls of the lobby, mezzanine and lounges of the theater and extending into the balcony.
The addition of Martin Woldson’s name was in honor of the father of Myrtle Woldson, an early contributor to the Fox Theater restoration, which was completed in 2007 at a cost of $31 million by the Spokane Symphony.
Next on the list, again partly because of public accessibility, is the 1916 Steam Plant, which provided piped heat throughout the downtown area through 1986.
The building, 159 S. Lincoln St., is easy to find with its towering twin smokestacks, which are slated for brick maintenance this year.
The restaurant and bar offer an intimate look at the heart of industrial America.
It is an intriguing warren of pipes, steel, boiler-room seating and the always fascinating stack room. Open the door, walk inside, feel the air rush by and look up.
Nos. 4 & 5
In the central downtown area stand two big office buildings across from each other: the Paulsen Building and the Old National Bank Building.
The 11-story Paulsen Building, 421 W. Riverside Ave., was constructed from 1908 to 1911 for silver magnate August Paulsen and designed by J.K. Dow and C.Z. Hubbell.
It was joined in 1929 by the 15-story Paulsen Medical and Dental Building.
Paulsen was working in a dairy in Wallace, Idaho, when he bought a quarter-interest in the Hercules mine for $850 in 1896, according to a historic register nomination.
The Old National Bank Building, 422 W. Riverside Ave., is considered a pure example of the Chicago style by architect Daniel H. Burnham. The 1908 building is 16 stories high.
The 1890 Review Building at Monroe and Riverside has housed The Spokesman-Review and its predecessors, the Spokane Falls Review and the Spokesman, since 1893.
The seven-story building follows the line of Riverside, while the high tower and turret with curved windows are architecturally unique.
The recently-restored 1928 City Ramp Garage, 430 W. First Ave., is an art deco jewel. Drivers pull into the garage and have an attendant park their cars while they go off to do their business.
According to the Spokane Historical website, “It was Spokane’s first multi-level, staggered-floor, ramp-type parking garage.”
The first publicly owned building on the list is the historic downtown post office building at Riverside and Lincoln, across from the historic Empire State Building and on the same block as the Review Tower.
The 1909 post office opened to great fanfare and was the center of deliverable communication in its day. As many as 2,600 people would enter its doors during the evening hours in those days.
The building is a mix of of beaux-arts classicism and Second Renaissance Revival in a Greek temple feel.
The Spokane Chronicle Building was completed in 1928 in a design by Kirtland Cutter and Karl Malmgren as the home of the former Spokane Chronicle afternoon newspaper, which was folded into The Spokesman-Review in the early 1990s.
Its entry way is exquisite, with carved wood and transom lights containing stained-glass figures of medieval scribes. The top floor is lined with gargoyles that act as printers’ devils, according to the Downtown Spokane Heritage Walk.
The former Clemmer Theater at Lincoln and Sprague is known as one of the early venues for Bing Crosby, who grew up in Spokane and left for Hollywood.
The 1915 theater was built by August Paulsen as the city’s first theater devoted to motion pictures.
It was renovated as the Met Theater in 1991 and renamed the Bing Crosby Theater in 2006.
Lewis and Clark High School, 521 W. Fourth Ave., was completed in 1911 and renovated by Spokane Public Schools in 2001.
“What remains of the building’s exterior continues to be one of the finest examples of the Collegiate Gothic Style in Spokane and is an outstanding example of the work of prominent Spokane architect Loren L. Rand,” according to the city’s historic preservation website.
The 1901 Legion Building at Riverside and Washington earns its ranking in part because of the acclaimed reconstruction and restoration by developer Steve Schmautz along with his wife, Tresa, in 2003.
The reconstruction brought back the original French mansard roof that was destroyed by fire in 1939. The building is a fine example of the commercial Renaissance Revival style.
There are plenty of runners-up: the Spokane County Courthouse (not downtown technically), the Ridpath Hotel, the Flour Mill, the Montvale Hotel, Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral, the Whitten Block, the Miller Block, the Corbin House, the Marycliff High School campus and Clark House, historic Fire Station No. 1, the Masonic Temple, Old City Hall, Spokane City Hall (originally Montgomery Ward building), the Crescent Building, the Washington Cracker Company Building, the Great Northern Clocktower, the Realty Building, the Hutton Building and the former Northern Pacific Railroad depot (which serves as Spokane’s Amtrak station), to name just some of them.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day's top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter