Then & Now galleries

Slideshows that compare historical photos with modern images.


Bennett Block

Bascomb H. Bennett, born 1859, ran the Arlington hotel at Howard and Main. He would become the son-in-law and partner of pioneer businessman A.M. Cannon and his Bank of Spokane Falls. In 1882, Bennett was involved in one of the most infamous confrontations in Spokane newspaper history.

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Mearow Building

Before the Mearow building became a longtime furniture store, the Richmond Hotel was in the upper floors and the storefront was the first home of Matthews and Kerr, a retail tea, coffee and spice business on the ground floor at 230 W. Sprague. The company was known for its black and orange delivery wagons stenciled with “M&K Coffee.”

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Motor Bus Depot

In the 1920s, the gasoline-powered bus was showing itself to be a more flexible mode of public transit than the streetcar or train. Three old buildings along Front St., between Howard and Wall St., were turned into a bus depot in 1924 by the Auto Interurban Co. and the Spokane-Lewiston Stage Line.

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Great Northern Rail Yard

In the 1880s, Spokane was becoming the premier rail hub of the west and rail tycoon James J. Hill wanted it on his Great Northern main line to the coast. The first GN train rolled into to Spokane in May of 1892, starting a long association between the company and Spokane.

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1939 “Send Bailey a Hat” campaign

The Spokane Athletic Round Table, a club of sports boosters started in 1920, began using proceeds from slot machines for youth and college sports programs. Members met over whiskey and cigars weekly at their own club for most of 36 years. Joseph Aloysius Albi, a fast-talking trial attorney who always had a joke up his sleeve, led the group from 1920 until 1962. Through the years he conspired with other “knights” of the Athletic Round Table, like Ray “Doc” Mauro of Gonzaga, to pull zany pranks, poke fun and raise funds to help underprivileged kids.

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Sportsmen’s and Tourists’ Fair

Today’s business and tourism promoters talk about whitewater parks, “Near Nature, Near Perfect” and Spokane’s occasional appearances in top-10 lists. Such promotions are not new. In 1920, as the frantic growth of the former frontier settlement began to slow, the Chamber of Commerce came up with a fair promoting the city’s proximity to fishing and hunting:

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Spokane Intermodel Center

Many things attracted newcomers to the tiny settlement of Spokane in the 1870s. There was plentiful land, water and timber. But the railroad fueled most of the optimism. The first transcontinental was completed in 1869 with the driving of a golden spike at Promontory, Utah. But the Northern Pacific was engaged in a brash, all-out push to complete a new route across the upper states and through Spokane.

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Spokane street cars

Horses pulled the first Spokane streetcars, then steam engines and cables buried in the road propelled the cars. WIthin a few years of the streetcars’ debut, all were powered by electricity.

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Centennial Mills flour mill

The first businesses in Spokane, after early trading posts, were water-powered grain and timber mills. Four major grain mills were established in early Spokane: C&C, Echo, Spokane Flour and Centennial Mills. The history of Centennial mirrors the growth of wheat and corporate agriculture in the 20th century.

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East Sprague Drive-in

America married its love of cars and movies in the concept of the drive-in theater. There were several around Spokane from the 1940s to the 1980s. A few lasted until the early 1990s. Few loved the movies as much as businessman Joseph Rosenfield. Born and raised in the Midwest, he began managing theaters as a young man. He came to Spokane in 1935 to manage Evergreen Theaters. In 1943 he started his own chain, Favorite Theaters, in Spokane. He grew the chain to nine movie houses and drive-ins. He envisioned and built the largest of Spokane’s drive-ins, the East Sprague Drive-in.

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Sandpoint, Idaho

Sandpoint, Idaho is known today as a tourism destination for skiers, hikers and fishermen. But for the last century it was an important railroad stop and a center of timber cutting and milling. Following the explorations of David Thompson in 1809, it was simple frontier settlement.

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Empire Hotel

Joao Ignacio was born in the Azores in the late 1830s and headed to America in his teens. Joao, who Anglicized his name to John Enos but was also known as “Portuguese Joe”, headed to California to look for gold, then to British Columbia for the same reason, but eventually settled in Lincoln County, Washington, amassing a farm and cattle ranch of more than 3000 acres. When he retiredin 1910, he traded his land for a new Spokane business, the Empire Hotel at Riverside and Division.

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Densow’s Drug Store

The Densow family was influential in business around the Inland Northwest for much of the 20th century. Louis Densow, born 1880, came west from Wisconsin in 1902 and ran a Ford dealership and other businesses in Wilbur and Pullman, Washington. He retired to Spokane in 1932. His son Bert, a pharmacist who trained at Washington State College and who started work in Wilbur in 1920, bought the venerable Joyner’s Drug Store in the Rookery Block in downtown Spokane in 1944.

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Spokane Falls Boulevard

For the opening of Expo ’74 40 years ago, a contest was held to rename the nearby street. Robert Greider suggested the name “Spokane Falls Boulevard” as the new name for Trent Ave. between Division St. and Monroe St. Greider, born in 1897 and who arrived in Spokane in a buckboard wagon in 1902, thought the name had a historical ring to it.

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Mearow Block was furniture central

The Mearow Block, which spans the 200 block of W. Riverside and Sprague Ave., is named for Joseph A. Mearow, who was born in 1870 on a Minnesota farm to a family with 14 children. He settled in Spokane in 1903 to do real estate, then started Bell Furniture in 1912.

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Pacific Transfer, W. 400 block of First Ave.

The Northern Pacific Railroad arrived in Spokane in 1881. It was a milestone that started Spokane’s meteoric rise to eclipse Walla Walla as the commercial center of the inland region. John Bigham, born in New York in 1835, was in the right place to expand with the growing city. After living, farming and running businesses in New York, Illinois, Minnesota and North Dakota, his new business, Pacific Transfer Co., became the baggage handler for the Northern Pacific, whose tracks ran between First and Second Ave. through downtown Spokane.

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Nims Cafe, a hot spot

Brothers Vivian and Bert Nims ran cafés in Spokane for 30 years, starting in 1915. Their most prominent location was 118 N. Stevens St., beside the Old National Bank building. Nims Café was a 24-hour joint in the Levy Block that opened in 1922 at the height of Prohibition.

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