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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Spokane

100 years ago today in Spokane: Old Fort Spokane pondered as an internment camp for those with “social disease”

From the May 15, 1918 Spokane Daily Chronicle. (The Spokesman-Review archives)
From the May 15, 1918 Spokane Daily Chronicle. (The Spokesman-Review archives)

Local officials were inspecting Old Fort Spokane, where the Spokane River meets the Columbia River, to assess its suitability for a startling new role.

They wanted to see if it could serve as “an internment camp for social disease cases.”

It had earlier been proposed as a quarantine center for the state. Sexually transmitted diseases were a big problem around the big army training bases, such as Camp Lewis, and officials were trying to figure out how to stem the spread.

“It is contemplated that these large hospital camps will be needed when the social disease campaign is well underway,” said the paper.

Disease victims would be “systematically treated and rehabilitated.”

Old Fort Spokane was suggested as a location, because it had a number of government-owned buildings sitting empty.

From the tourism beat: Spokane was offering dozens of free camping sites to touring parties of motorists.

One such area was at Downriver Park, where the Inland Automobile Club (today’s AAA) cleared and raked the area to make it suitable for camping.

The head of the auto club said at least 100 touring parties had already been through Spokane, “from California and many eastern points.” Many had traveled the National Parks Highway, through Montana.

He said his office got at least 10 inquiries per day, asking about accommodations for auto travelers.

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