Christmas decorations put up by retailers or retail groups have been a historical part of the downtown holiday scene. In 1956, the C.C. Anderson department store chain, based in Boise, completed a new 10-story building at Main Ave. and Wall St. in Spokane for their new store, called the Bon Marche after their Seattle store. And the store immediately commissioned a landmark holiday decoration which became the Madonna and Christ child simulated stained glass window for front of the store, which is now Macy’s.
In the 1962 photo above, a sign on the left reads “E-Z Loans.” That’s Millman Jewelers and E-Z Loan, a shop started by Henry and Sadie Millman in 1929, next door to the current location of 407 W. Main. Henry was born in Romania in 1900 and came to America at age 5. He became a skilled watchmaker and jeweler and operated his store for almost 45 years. At one time, it sat next to Dutch’s Music, in the old Ulrich’s Café, and Huppins , both of which operated as pawn shops at one time.
Sullivan Rd. in Spokane Valley is named after an early settler, John P. “Jack” Sullivan, who was born in County Cork, Ireland in 1846 and who came in the United States in 1860. He worked many jobs around the Western states before he arrived in the Spokane area in 1884 and set about fencing off his homestead. His land stretched from what is now Sprague Ave. north, almost to the Spokane River, including what the local stagecoach drivers called the Mullan Rd., near the current route of I-90.
The Right Reverend Edward Makin Cross came from Minnesota to be the third bishop of the Episcopal Church’s Spokane diocese in 1924. He proposed a cathedral that would symbolize the church to the whole region. St. James Church, St. Peter’s Church and All Saints Cathedral would sell their respective properties and combine to fill the new church. The diocese commissioned architect Harold C. Whitehouse, a church member, to design a gothic cathedral in the English tradition.
One of the biggest changes to the downtown waterfront was the removal of the rails. In the 1960s, city boosters began to dream of a world’s fair around the falls in Spokane. And one of the biggest roadblocks was the tangle of steel rails that snaked across Havermale Island and along the shore of the river. The railroads had carried passengers and freight through town for almost a century, but now organizer King Cole and Spokane Unlimited Inc. saw the dingy rail yards and aged depots as a visual blight on the scenic waterway.
Spokane sprang from the ashes of the great fire of 1889 and many distinctive structures, including the Review Tower, were built in early 1890s. But building came to a screeching halt in the panic of 1893. Shaky financing of railroads, a run on gold supplies and hundreds of bank failures resulted in the worst recession the United States had ever seen. But the city of Spokane was building a grand city hall near the falls and there was still optimism that the recession would be temporary. With the former courthouse roof leaking, the county board held a contest to design the new county courthouse that would sit on land north of the river donated by early settler David P. Jenkins. The building should cost no more than $250,000 and the winning designer would win a prize totaling five percent of that cost.
For several decades, there was a collection of shacks along the Spokane River downstream from the Monroe St. Bridge and under the trains that rattled along the rim of the gorge. The squatters, all men, came and went, each selling his shack for a few dollars when he moved on.
William M. Ridpath, born 1845 in Putnam County, Indiana, volunteered for service during the Civil War, serving two hitches before mustering out and attending college. Col. Ridpath taught school and studied law until passing the bar in 1872. He served in the Indiana legislature and was later appointed by President Chester A. Arthur as an Indian agent to various tribes in the west before moving to Spokane in 1888. Here he practiced law and was appointed to be a prosecutor in the pre-and post-statehood era. He invested in mining and real estate. Investment in the Le Roi mine in Rossland, British Columbia paid off handsomely and he used his profits to open the five-story Ridpath Hotel on W. Sprague in 1900.
William H. Kroll was already a successful lumberman in Michigan and well into his 60s when he came west in 1911 and stopped in St. Maries, Idaho. In 1921, he bought the Merriam Block on First Ave. in Spokane, between Wall and Howard and changed the name to the Kroll Building.
Col. David P. Jenkins was one of Spokane’s greatest benefactors. Before homesteading Spokane’s north side of the river, Jenkins, born 1823, was a lawyer from Ohio, an acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln and a Civil War hero. After the war, he practiced law in Seattle for several years. When he heard about the impending connection of the Northern Pacific railroad to Spokane, he moved here around 1880, homesteading 157 acres on the north side of the Spokane River bounded by Howard St., Cedar St. and Mallon Ave.
Russell Walker was a salesman who spent much of his career in women’s wear. He was born in Seattle in 1902 and came to Spokane in 1916. As a teen, he began working in the back at Bartlett’s, a women’s wear store, but was soon promoted to sales when management saw how he persuaded his female classmates to shop there. He opened his first store in 1920, selling WWI surplus gear, then switched to ladies’ shoes in 1930. He called it Savon’s, adding women’s sportswear a few years later.
Charles A. Blodgett, born 1893 in Victor, Montana, came to Spokane at 18 and set to work. He learned the retail business working at a North Monroe grocery store. He opened his own store, Blodgett Mercantile, on the corner of Nevada and Wellesley in 1909.
In 1932, the city finished paving Division St. north to the Francis, which was the city limits at the time, and Spokane County surveyed and paved north from there. But when the county’s crew attempted to link up their section, they found the two 20-foot-wide concrete strips of pavement were a good 12 inches below the grade of Francis.
A distinctly American retail phenomenon, the “five and dime” store, began in the 19th century, but became wildly popular in the post-World War II era. The formula was low prices, literally just nickels and dimes, for dry goods like razor blades, bobby pins, and shoelaces sold from countertop bins, plus a lunch counter where pocket change could buy a grilled cheese sandwich and a malt. Many stores also sold small pets, like goldfish, and had booths where you could get your picture taken. Woolworth’s and Newberry’s, which took over a Britt’s variety store in 1930, were fixtures of downtown Spokane for several decades.
Philip Danforth Armour, born 1832 in upstate New York, was an industrious youth who started, with his brother Joseph, a meat packing business at Chicago’s Union Stockyards in 1867. He designed an efficient assembly line for slaughtering animals and built a large fleet of refrigerated rail cars. Armour tried to use every part of the animal and sold byproducts for glue, cosmetics, medicines and fertilizer. The Armour company quietly bought up shares of Spokane’s E.H. Stanton meat packing plant at 3300 East Sprague and took over in 1917.
The Crescent, Spokane’s homegrown department store, disappeared in 1988 when it was combined with the Frederick and Nelson brand, but it started off with a bang and is remembered fondly by older Spokanites. The store, originally called Spokane Dry Goods, was housed in the gently curving Crescent building located where the Spokesman-Review building now sits.
It was a long hot summer. Forest fires raged around the region and Seattle had a catastrophic fire earlier that summer. But the bustling boom town of Spokane Falls, with 19,000 people, hardly slowed down for the heat. Around 6 p.m. Sunday evening, fire broke out in rooming house along Railroad Ave. between Lincoln and Post.
Not much is left from the early development at the intersection of Monroe St., Indiana and Northwest Blvd. Sturdy brick buildings have been replaced by restaurants and fast food joints, shops and wood-framed retail shops. The hold-out is the Boulevard Blvd., at far right, which has housed a hardware store from 1912 until last year.