Since James Glover rode up to the Spokane Falls in 1873 and made a deal to buy out the two squatters on the land around the falls, there has been an informal competition to build bigger, taller, and more impressive structures than had existed before.
As the first brick buildings took shape, the word “skyscraper” was used to describe the latest four-, five- or six-story building. But many agree that Spokane’s first skyscraper was the 1891 Review Tower, which rose 146 feet above the muddy streets. It is the only one of Spokane’s top 25 tallest buildings still in existence which was built in the 1800s. The Tower is a classic Victorian skyscraper with its turret, steep gables, arched windows and a mix of brick and solid stone.
The next wave of tall buildings, just after the turn of the century, includes the Old National Bank, the Paulsen building and the Welch and Culbertson buildings which are now part of the former Macy’s complex. The buildings from that era came from the Chicago School of architecture, which favored businesslike brick edifices with many windows and terra cotta accents. The new high-rises were made possible by steel girder internal frames that gave them strength and longevity. The style is found in many buildings, such as the Crescent, the Jensen-Byrd warehouse, the Hutton Building and the Realty Building.
Among the new tall buildings of the 20th century were several large grain elevators and churches like Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral and St. John the Evangelist Cathedrals.
In the the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Spokane’s tallest new high-rises were for retirement apartments, banks and hospitals. Most of these were designed by well-known modern architects like Warren Heylman, who designed the Riverfalls Tower and Cathedral Plaza apartments.
The Paulsen Medical and Dental Building was the tallest from it’s completion in 1929 until 1981.
But since 1981, the sleek Bank of America Center, which was originally built for SeaFirst Bank, has reigned supreme at 20 stories and 288 feet in height. The Davenport Hotel Tower and Park Tower apartments are the only other 20-story buildings in Spokane. Developers have proposed taller buildings, including some of more than 30 stories, but nothing has materialized yet.
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