Spokane parks have a special place in the history of the city, and local preservation leaders want that place recognized and documented on the National Register of Historic Places.
The city parks department and the Spokane Historic Landmarks Commission plan to nominate Manito Park and Manito Boulevard for listing on the national register.
While Manito Park would be the first city park on the national register, it would not be the last.
Plans call for nominating other parks to the national register in coming years, said Garrett Jones, assistant park director for operations. Protecting historic assets is a parks department goal, he said.
There are about 100 city park holdings, including large conservation areas along the Spokane River, parklike boulevards, and neighborhood parks such as Corbin and Hays parks on the North Side.
The landmarks commission is looking to list city parks under an umbrella designation called “multiple-property documentation” under federal preservation guidelines. Individual nominations will come later.
Jim Kolva, a landmarks commissioner, said parks in Spokane are “part of the legacy of the development of the city.”
The multiple-property documentation for parks would be the first of its kind in the state, said Megan Duvall, historic preservation officer.
The commission recently was briefed on the application, which covers Spokane city parks and boulevards from 1891 to 1974.
Coeur d’Alene Park was the first park acquired by the city in 1891 following its development by two of the city’s founding fathers as an attraction to draw residents to the upscale additions west of downtown.
Manito Park was first built by real estate developer Francis Cook, who named it Montrose Park for the wild roses that abounded in the area. Jay P. Graves acquired the tracts in 1902 after Cook lost holdings around the park as a result of the financial panic of 1893.
“In 1903, Montrose Park was renamed Manito Park and began its evolution into the city’s most beloved public park,” according to the multiple-property documentation.
The park was deeded to the city in 1904.
Today, Manito Park has 35 buildings, structures and other features that are considered contributing elements to a historic register listing.
That includes the notable landmarks of Duncan Gardens, Rose Hill and the rock-walled administrative building, but also smaller features such as the horse watering trough along Grand Boulevard and bear cage cleats from a former zoo.
Lynn Mandyke, chairwoman of the landmarks commission, said Manito Boulevard is so closely related to the park that it makes sense to include it in the Manito nomination.
About $30,000 has been spent so far to develop the multiple-property document and Manito nomination with funds from the city parks department, a federal grant, Spokane Preservation Advocates and the landmarks commission.
Historical Research Inc., of Portland, was hired as a consultant on the project.
The multiple-property documentation draws a strong link between today’s park system and the early design work of the Olmsted Brothers, a landscape architecture firm hired by the park board to create a long-term plan for the city’s park system. The firm recommended preserving large swaths along the river and creating boulevards linking public spaces.
The park designs “were linked to social issues of the time, most obviously those of the needs of working- and middle-class families to recreate in fresh air and open environments not overly distant from downtown and residential cores, as prescribed in the Olmsted report,” the briefing report said.
Riverfront Park and its legacy as the grounds of Expo ’74 are made eligible for national register listing under the multiple-property documentation, which points out that creation of the park fulfilled a chief Olmsted Brothers recommendation for a downtown park along the river and Spokane Falls.
The documentation and Manito nomination are scheduled for action in October before the state advisory council on historic preservation, which would be asked to send the proposals to the National Park Service for potential adoption and register listing.
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