Spokane was booming in the 1890s, the population was growing rapidly, and clubs, lodges and fraternal organizations were bursting at the seams. The Spokane Amateur Athletic Club organized in 1891 with the boast that their facilities would offer not only the best billiards and bowling, but also gym facilities for fitness. Outdoor facilities, including tennis courts and a cycling track, were located away from their downtown building.
The S.A.A.C. was one of several city-based athletic clubs similar to ones in Walla Walla, Portland, Tacoma and Seattle that supported traveling teams in football, bowling, track and other sports, depending on the interests of the members. These teams carried the city’s name and civic pride as they traveled, finding a prominent position on the local newspaper sports pages.
The club, which had more than 400 members in 1898 according to historian Nelson Durham, put up a large building at Monroe Street and Main Avenue in 1904 that had a two-story gymnasium, bowling alley, billiard room and other amenities.
The club flourished through the prosperous years, but membership went into decline as the Great Depression dawned in the 1930s. The club folded around 1933, and the building sat empty for a few years.
Businessman Eugene Enloe, who settled in Medical Lake in 1891, made his money in a bakery, electrical utilities, real estate and banking. He purchased the club building and opened a hostel for unemployed women during the worst years of the Great Depression, then gave the building to the YWCA Spokane chapter in 1937. The organization, present in Spokane since 1903, focused on helping single women with housing, job skills and emotional support.
The YWCA moved into the former athletic club and stayed until 1965.
In the early 1960s, the design of the new federal courthouse called for the demolition of the S.A.A.C., the Dodd Block and smaller buildings around them. The YWCA moved to the Rainier Building, part of a former brewery on Broadway Avenue on the north side of the river. Since the 1970s, the YWCA has focused on child care and programs to combat domestic violence. Since 2009, the Spokane YWCA has been co-located with the YMCA in the North Monroe Street location.
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