When Manito Presbyterian Church had its first Sunday service nearly 110 years ago, parishioners traveled along the dirt path that was 29th Avenue by horseback to the corner of 30th Avenue and Latawah Street where the church still stands today.
While many people at that time lived in the city’s downtown, the church and most of its early members made their homes on the southern outskirts of Spokane, bordered by small farms and swampland, said Jim Price, a community historian and former contributor to The Spokesman-Review.
“It was really a primitive area,” Price said. “Manito Presbyterian and (nearby) Manito United Methodist really grew up with their neighborhoods.”
Primitive is not a word typically associated with the cozy and verdant neighborhoods that Manito Presbyterian Church straddles: Manito, Comstock and Rockwood. And this is no mistake, Price said. Utilizing a few different styles, Manito was deliberately built over 25 years as a residential community – requiring developed streets and tree-shaded sidewalks – to be “the epitome of neighborhood,” he said.
Comstock, with its iconic ranchers, developed later in a different style following World War II on lands donated to the city by the Comstock-Shadle family, who owned the Spokane Dry Goods Company.
Neighborhoods change gradually, but Rev. Scott Starbuck said he has seen his community – like the rest of the nation – become ever busier in the 15 years since he began leading Manito Presbyterian. But he said he also sees neighbors actively working to connect and get to know on another.
Residents of Manito and Comstock are also strongly invested in their community, building lives around excellent schools and beautiful green spaces like Manito Park, Starbuck said.
Though church attendance in Washington – part of the “Unchurched Belt” where lack of religious affiliation is common – and participation in community organizations and clubs is lower today than when Manito and Comstock first developed, Price said the move away from church Sundays doesn’t mean neighbors aren’t meeting in the park and being part of the community.
Under his leadership, Manito Presbyterian has opened itself more to the community and actively engaged as a good neighbor through fun public events and community work, Starbuck said. Rather than try to recruit anyone, the church hopes to create an atmosphere of hospitality and act as a neighborhood gathering place, he said.
“In these neighborhoods, there’s just a tremendous spirit of cooperation,” Starbuck said.
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