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Then and Now

The Ziegler Building


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Louis Ziegler faced many fiery trials. He arrived in the United States from Germany in 1852 at age 15 and became a wagon maker in Kentucky. He opened his own wagon shop in Chenoa, Illinois, in 1863 and did well until a massive fire claimed his buildings in 1870.

Discouraged, Ziegler went back to his Bavarian home for a few years but returned in 1873 and bought into a flour mill in Chenoa. It did all right until another fire in 1876. With great resolve, he rebuilt and started over, but a third fire in 1878 left him penniless.

During these trying times, Ziegler served as justice of the peace and the town’s mayor. He also joined the local Masonic lodge, which would become a large part of his life. After the last fire, Ziegler and his wife, Margaret, headed west and settled in Spokane in 1879. He built a wood-frame commercial building at Riverside and Howard and opened a hardware business. He also helped found Spokane’s first Masonic lodge in 1880.

Ziegler fervently believed in the Masonic philosophy of high moral conduct and self-improvement. The Zieglers’ Lutheran home welcomed some of the first Catholic missionaries and Jewish rabbis to Spokane. At his funeral, a friend said, “Everyone who liked to talk of the higher things of life found delight in that home.”

Ziegler was philosophical, well-read and an eloquent speaker. In 1885, he became Grand Master of Washington state Masons. But tragedy always seemed to follow him. The great fire of 1889 swept through Spokane, destroying his business and most of downtown. Ziegler was one of the first to rebuild, erecting an elegant five-story skyscraper that would be the tallest building in town until the seven-story Review Tower was completed in 1891. For the next 60 years, the Ziegler Building was home to many offices and retail businesses.

Ziegler died in 1911. He was remembered not for his business, but his intellect, dedication to learning and ecumenical outlook. A fellow Mason said, “A stranger hearing him in the discussion of religious, philosophical, literary, poetical or historic subjects would be sure to conclude that Brother Ziegler belonged to one of the learned professions and could not all his life have been an active businessman.”

– Jesse Tinsley


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