Then and Now

Aerial view of the Spokane County Courthouse

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.


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Image One Photo Archive The Spokesman-Review Image Two Jesse Tinsley The Spokesman-Review

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. W.A. Ritchie, a 29-year-old architect who was trained by correspondence course, won first prize. His design drew heavily on the 16th-century French castles of the Loire Valley, specifically Chambord and Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau. Kirtland Cutter came in second. There were complaints that it was too extravagant and a waste of taxpayer dollars but it went ahead anyway. Building took two years to complete and it opened for business in November of 1895. Jails and other administrative buildings have taken their place around the building over the years. A major renovation of roofing, tower decks, brickwork and decorative terra cotta was completed in 2008.


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