Northwest Room of the Spokane Public Library
The twin stacks of the Central Steam Plant were completed in 1916 by the Merchants Central Heating Company. The 225-foot stacks used 333,340 bricks and extend above the elegant facility designed by Kirtland Cutter and Karl Malmgren. The plant lost money until it was purchased by Washington Water Power in 1919. The boilers, powered mostly by coal, but also wood, natural gas and electricity over the years, sent steam through a maze of pipes to heat downtown buildings for 70 years. In 1986, the plant was in need of extensive repair and deemed too expensive to fix and operate. After a decade sitting empty, developer Ron Wells teamed with Washington Water Power, now Avista Corporation, to remodel the industrial facility into offices, restaurants and public spaces, preserving the piping and girders and making use of the cavernous interior. Wells and Company connected the steam plant to the Seehorn Building, a former warehouse built in 1890, with a new high-tech structure called the Courtyard Building. The updated complex is now called Steam Plant Square.