The man who brought Expo ’74 to town. A doctor who delivered thousands of babies and helped stop a bridge from being built over the lower Spokane Falls. The region’s native language.
All of these are candidates for the name of the plaza that opened next to City Hall this spring. The former parking lot is now a geometric, basalt-themed home to various levels of seating and viewpoints of the falls. The plaza, a joint project between the city and Avista, connects Riverfront Park to Huntington Park, which was constructed last year by the utility company when it was celebrating its 125th anniversary.
This week, the city’s plan commission recommended three names for the plaza to the Spokane City Council, which will make a decision on Nov. 10.
“We received a good number of suggestions, a lot of them of people who have done well in Spokane,” said Dennis Dellwo, the commission’s president.
After a few months of discussion, the commission whittled dozens of entries down to three: King Cole, John Moyer and the Gathering Place, which would be written in both English and Salish.
Cole is best known as the Father of Expo ’74. According to “The Fair and the Falls,” the definitive history of the world’s fair, Cole was a “promoter, visionary, manager, and senior statesman” who devoted a decade of his life to “getting rid of the damn trestles,” as he said, and uncovering the falls. He died in 2010.
Moyer, who died last month at the age of 92, was a local physician who delivered 7,500 babies over his 30-year career. He also served in the state Legislature as a Republican in the 1980s and ’90s. For the plaza, Moyer’s role in helping to prevent the construction of the Lincoln Street Bridge was likely most influential.
For thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans in the Inland Northwest, local people gathered around the falls, especially during the annual salmon runs. At the time, people in the Pacific Northwest spoke a family of languages called Salishan. While the language is considered endangered, its phonetic spelling can be seen in numerous places in Spokane, including the name of a building at Spokane Falls Community College and on some uniforms and paraphernalia of the local minor league baseball team, the Spokane Indians.
“Personally, I like the idea of honoring the Spokane Tribe with Salish,” said City Council President Ben Stuckart. “I’ll be lobbying my fellow council members for one of those rather than picking a person. … There were a lot of strong opinions for a lot of people. There were a lot of people who wanted to honor Som Jordan (a Spokane musician and journalist who died last year). But I think it’s better to honor the tribes.”
In a way, Dellwo agreed with Stuckart. “The problem with naming a plaza after a person is sometimes people forget who the person is,” Dellwo said. “The city council can still do whatever they want. These are just the three we recommended.”
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