Then and Now

Wolverton Block

Brothers Albert and William Wolverton built the first brick office building in Spokane Falls, the Wolverton Block, in 1881.


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

Brothers Albert and William Wolverton built the first brick office building in Spokan Falls, as it was called then the Wolverton Block, in 1881. But it was only possible by J.T. Davie, a young brick maker from Scotland who was working California. He heard about Spokan Falls and headed north. His money took him as far as Fort Walla Walla, but he didn’t have the $10 stagecoach fare to Spokane. He struck out on foot. After a month and a half on the trail, including walking through a snowstorm near Davenport, he reached Spokane on Nov. 15, 1879. The only bricks being made in Spokane were so poor that no one trusted them for more than a chimney. Davie saw that the clay content was wrong, the bricks were stacked too close together in the kiln and the fires weren’t stoked properly. Davie talked himself into a job. Working by himself in the summer sun, he could mould and “burn” one thousand bricks, which sold for $10. Davie prospered and formed his own company. Almost a million of his bricks were laid in 1883. His bricks built the First National Bank and the first Gonzaga University building. When Davie couldn’t find a reliable man to stoke the overnight fires, he would stoke the kiln fires after a long day’s work. In 1888, his health suffered and he sold his business to architect and builder Henry Brook. The 1889 fire destroyed most of Spokane’s buildings, including the Wolverton. Davie came back to brickmaking, but his business was now dwarfed by the competition, including Brook’s company, Washington Brick and Lime, which made bricks, clay tile and decorative terra cotta in Clayton, Bayview, Dishman and Freeman. The Wolverton was rebuilt after the fire, but razed in 1946 to make way for the Newberry’s store.


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