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

The building on the southwest corner of Browne Street and Riverside Avenue, shown Oct. 19, 2018, started life as part of a complex of three buildings in 1905. The two westernmost buildings were torn down in 1967. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The building on the southwest corner of Browne Street and Riverside Avenue, shown Oct. 19, 2018, started life as part of a complex of three buildings in 1905. The two westernmost buildings were torn down in 1967. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

In 1874, Spokane was a cluster of simple wood-framed dwellings and a handful of families. By 1900, the settlement was now a burgeoning city of 35,000 and an important hub for railroads and commerce. But it didn’t stop there. Between 1900 and 1910, Spokane’s population exploded to 100,000, sparking construction downtown and in suburban areas. The city by the falls was booming.

To house the many single men and women flocking to fill many new jobs, dozens of SRO – single residence occupancy – hotels were erected downtown.

With the upscale Pedicord Hotel, built in 1893 by wealthy businessman F. Lewis Clark, doing strong business next door, Huber and Margaret Rasher put up a more modest three-story property stretching from 201-207 W. Riverside Ave. in 1905, which was the Gillette Hotel briefly before becoming the National Hotel for almost a decade. The building is typical of an SRO hotel, with retail storefronts on the ground floor and as many single-room-occupancy suites as could be fitted in the second and third stories. SROs provided temporary housing for unmarried people who worked downtown. Residents sometimes had only a sink in the room and shared a bathroom down the hall.

In the 2003 nomination for listing on the Spokane Register of Historic Places, consultant Linda Yeomans wrote that the “National Hotel is one of only twenty remaining SROs that were originally erected in Spokane’s east downtown neighborhood, an area that once held more than one hundred single room occupancy hotels.”

The building was built for Rasher, a prominent Spokane pioneer, politician and entrepreneur, and his wife, who owned the property for 39 years.

The National only lasted approximately 10 years but the building was divided into three buildings and the California Hotel and the Sheridan Hotel were operated in the two westernmost segments over the years. Those westernmost sections were torn down in 1967, leaving the current structure, which still has two prominent retail bays. The interior of the upper floors were essentially gutted in 1979 during a remodel. The upstairs has a handful of business offices where the old SRO apartments used to be.

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