Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 57° Partly Cloudy
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.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.