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Tuesday, October 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Then and Now: The Montvale

John W. Binkley, a Spokane pioneer, attorney and judge, built a mixed-use building on two lots at First Avenue and Monroe Street in 1899. He named it Montvale, after his rural estate on the Little Spokane River.

Like many downtown buildings, there was commercial space on the ground level and residential rooms above. For the first several years, the ground occupants were auto parts and repair shops.

William J. Kilmer, a manager with Spokane Hardware Supply, opened Kilmer Hardware in the Montvale around 1910 with partner George Brown. For about 60 years, Kilmer, later Kilmer and Sons, won success supplying products for tradesmen, mechanics, do-it-yourselfers and sportsmen, for whom the store carried firearms and hunting supplies.

The oft-told story is that Kilmer once hired a young clerk from Lake Placid, New York, named Henry J. Kaiser, who people said was remarkably friendly and persuasive.

After several productive months in Spokane, Kaiser married and the couple built a fine house on Grand Boulevard in 1908.

Kaiser worked in hardware for a few more years, mostly at the McGowan Brothers Co. Just before the Kaisers moved away from Spokane, he was manager of Hill Paving Co., making use of the latest technology in heavy machinery.

He would go on to be the prime contractor on the Hoover, Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams. During World War II, he opened steel and aluminum plants, built massive shipyards and manufactured many items for the war effort. The industrialist established the nonprofit Kaiser Permanente to care for workers throughout California. Kaiser died in 1967.

Judge Binkley died in 1931, and Kilmer and Sons bought the building from Binkley’s daughter in 1936. William Kilmer died in 1937. The Kilmer family sold the Montvale in 1966 and the store moved to East Third Avenue. From the late 1960s to the ’90s, Clark Evans Music, Music City and Stark’s Vacuums were among the businesses at the old building.

During Expo ’74, the run-down hotel served as a youth hostel. Developer Rob Brewster bought the building in 1996 and reopened the refurbished boutique hotel in 2005. In 2015, businessman Jerry Dicker bought the hotel out of bankruptcy. In recent years, restaurants and pubs have occupied the ground floor.

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