Then and Now

View from the Courthouse: Monroe Street Bridge

This photo, by photographer Charles Libby, is looking southwest from the Spokane County courthouse tower at the Monroe Street Bridge, made of steel until 1909. Photo is circa 1903, according to “Spokane, Our Early History” by Suzanne and Tony Bamonte.

Image two
Image one
Image One Courtesy of Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library Image Two Jesse Tinsley The Spokesman-Review

Today, thousands of photographs are shot every minute in Spokane on digital cameras, cell phones and webcams, but when Charles Libby opened his photo studio with his sister Addie in 1898, photographs were still a novelty. Libby’s photos, over a 60 year career, are a fascinating chronicle of Spokane’s early boom era. He climbed the Spokane County courthouse’s tower to make the photo above showing the steel Monroe Street bridge, which was replaced with concrete in 1909. Born in Olympia in 1879, he moved to Spokane and worked menial jobs until he could afford a camera. Libby made portraits, shot real estate, photographed high society events and offered aerial photography. Libby died in 1966, and most of his negatives reside with the Eastern Washington Historical Society at the Museum of Arts and Culture.

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