The planned demolition of some of Spokane Valley’s oldest buildings for a new Rite Aid store at Sprague Avenue and Pines Road is an unavoidable tragedy for Jayne Singleton.
She’s the director of the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, located in the same block as the buildings to be razed.
“We feel it’s a tragedy because there is so little of the Valley left in terms of historic buildings, and that’s where the Valley got its start,” Singleton said.
The century-old structures at the southwest corner of Sprague and Pines are at the heart of the old Opportunity Township. They’re the closest thing Spokane Valley has to a traditional city center, with two-story brick buildings abutting street-front sidewalks.
However, the historic structures are badly deteriorated or condemned. The one that housed Midway Cyclery has been a useless shell since it was gutted by fire in 2003.
“They’re too far gone,” owner Tom Hamilton said. “You would spend four times the cost as opposed to building a new structure. They just don’t have anything to hold onto.”
Singleton agrees there’s no hope for the buildings.
“I don’t have any idea who might step forward with the necessary funding to renovate those buildings,” she said. “I think we are beyond that point, unfortunately.”
The buildings are among the last vestiges of a retailing style Spokane Valley and other suburban communities abandoned decades ago. Only a few examples, such as family operated Peters Hardware, are left.
The hardware store is sandwiched between Dave’s Bar and Grill – also family operated – and the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum in a row of vintage structures.
Peters Hardware is the kind of place where clerks help customers find merchandise the customers probably didn’t really expect the store to have.
Established in 1934, Peters is owned by founder Bill Peters’ grandson, Gary Peters, who’s been working in the store at least since he was 9. In a cubbyhole at the back, sister Carol Bisterfeldt works as the bookkeeper.
Bisterfeldt expects the store to suffer during construction of the Rite Aid, but to benefit in the long term.
“I know we benefit from Dave’s,” she said. “It’s all related here.”
Dave’s, Peters and the museum will be all that’s left of the old “downtown” after the planned redevelopment.
The Opportunity Store at the corner was the first to open in the early 1900s, selling groceries and everything else a household might need, Singleton said.
She doesn’t know exactly when the Opportunity Store opened because relatively little of Spokane Valley’s history was recorded. Much of what’s known about the still-young community has been pieced together from oral accounts.
That’s why Singleton is eager to see what’s in a time capsule in one of the buildings to be demolished.
According to an article Singleton found in the Spokane Valley News Herald, the capsule was placed at the cornerstone of the Wilford Lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows in 1926.
Hamilton said he intends to hand the capsule over to the museum.
Singleton believes the capsule was placed when the lodge was expanded after a 1926 fire destroyed all the wooden buildings on the block.
A plaque on the lodge hall indicates it was built in 1909 and 1926.
Hamilton said a group called the Orchard Lodge had the building when he bought it 28 years ago. He moved them to one of his other buildings and gave them a 99-year lease, but they soon faded away.
Most probably were already in their 80s, he said.
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