Then, as now, smoke hung in the pines overlooking the young pioneer town beside the Spokane Falls. Area forests were ablaze. People and horses trudged along the dusty streets in the heat of an August afternoon. Little did they imagine that the buildings they passed within hours would catch fire and collapse into 32 blocks of ruin. Friday, 128 years later, Spokane history lovers plan to re-enact the day their city burned to the ground.
Once upon a time there was a gritty little railroad town. Next to the switching yards where locomotives chuffed and cinders flew, its downtown had a nice department store where everybody shopped, and a famous hotel where everybody stayed. But in the 1960s a freeway bypassed the gritty little town, and out beyond its outskirts of bars and used-car lots some shiny suburban shopping malls appeared. We’re new, they said to the gritty little town, and you’re old. The future is here and it will pass you by. We will change, said the leaders of the gritty little town, rolling up their sleeves.
Whenever ESPN broadcasts a Gonzaga basketball game, the Davenport Hotel’s marketing director fires up his DVR. Because Matt Jensen can just about count on some gratis gratitude from the network’s on-air personalities. It started, Jensen said, in the early days of Coaches vs. Cancer. Gonzaga basketball Coach Mark Few and his wife, Marcy, would host a fundraiser at the Davenport Hotel. ESPN commentators sometimes served as emcees for the event, which would include a black-tie dinner, rounds of golf and attendance by lots of really tall people from all around the country.
Last week a group called Friends of the Davenport disbanded. Thirty-one years have come and gone since the group was created. Years marked by cutthroat business competition, some of most divisive political battles the city of Spokane has ever experienced, and, in the end, a triumph – a victory not just for a much-loved building, but also for the spirit of a community, a city of people who each considered the Davenport Hotel to be theirs. More on the Davenport Hotel, including historic and new photos, can be found in The Spokesman-Review’s