Sylvester Heath, born in 1847 in Indiana, arrived in Spokane in 1879 at the age of 32 and ready to do business.
Heath homesteaded north of the river in the area of present-day Gonzaga University. He dabbled in farming and raising horses, but his first job was clerking in a general store, which also served as Spokane’s post office. That led to being appointed the city’s fourth postmaster and, eventually, his own stationery store.
The Great Fire of 1889 wiped out Heath’s store and home at the corner of Monroe Street and Riverside Avenue. He sold the stationery business to his assistant, John W. Graham.
Heath was discouraged but turned his sights on real estate. He built a two-story, wood-frame building, and Graham was the first tenant.
After a few years there, Graham went on to operate Spokane’s largest stationery store, offering books, magazines, gifts, toys and other items at a massive Sprague Avenue location.
In the early 1900s, the three-story Touraine Hotel and the brick Heath building replaced the wooden structure. The upper floors were the hotel rooms, with retail on the ground floor. Tenants were mostly weekly and monthly renters. A third building, the Touraine Annex, was built, projecting north from the Heath building, wrapping around a gas station that was on the corner. Miller-Dervant, advertised as hairdressers, costumers and wig-makers, was the ground-floor tenant in the annex for more than 40 years. Various proprietors and owners ran the hotel for 50-plus years.
Heath is remembered for developing the neighborhood, called Heath Addition, around Gonzaga University. Heath had helped finance the new college with a loan of $200 to Father Joseph Cataldo, who laid out the streets around the school. Heath donated the land for a Carnegie library, called the Heath Branch, at 517 E. Mission Ave. The library is now the headquarters for Magnuson Hotels. Heath died in 1925 at the age of 78.
In 1955, the hotel was in bankruptcy and residents were told to move out. “I guess I’ll have go somewhere else,” T.F. Hereley, 88, told a newspaper reporter. Hereley had lived in the Touraine since 1927.
Starting in 1957, the rundown hotel was torn down in sections and turned into parking lots over the next 10 years.
In addition to the Touraine, the State, Bell and Stanford hotels, all on the same block, were demolished to make way for The Spokesman-Review and the Spokane Chronicle printing plant in 1980.
– Jesse Tinsley
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