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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Then and Now: Spokane County Courthouse grounds

The Spokane County Courthouse was built on a patch of land donated by Col. David P. Jenkins, an early settler who homesteaded the north bank of the Spokane River after arriving in 1879.

The new courthouse was completed in 1895, and since then the campus around the historic structure has grown and expanded to house many county departments.

Besides the main building, a four-story county jail behind the courthouse followed in the 1890s. In 1922, steep steps to the entrances were taken out and the basement floor became the first floor. A nondescript office annex, completed in 1954, was added next to the jail.

As early as the late 1930s, county commissioners were discussing the need for a bigger jail, more courtrooms and space for the county Sheriff’s Office. The concept building would be called a “Temple of Justice,” according to a 1938 Spokane Chronicle article.

Meanwhile, the city of Spokane was desperate for space. The 1913 City Hall was cramped, and the city was planning its own multi-use building for courts and police at Riverside Avenue and Browne Street. The beginning of construction was just months away in March of 1948.

But that project was called off in June of that year as the costs of a new sewer system began to mount.

The situation came to a head in the mid-1960s. The county’s 1890s jail was far too small, as was the city’s jail, which was shoehorned into the eighth floor of the Realty building, which had been remodeled for that purpose in 1963.

The architectural firm of Walker and McGough recommended that the county Sheriff’s Department and city police retain their separate identities but share a common lobby in a new building called the Public Safety Building. There would be medium and maximum security jail cells, as well as district and municipal courtrooms. Local officials touted the savings.

County and city leaders proposed a $6.4 million bond to build the PSB, and the voters finally agreed in 1967. The old jail stood until the new building was ready in 1970.

With the help of state funds, a new jail tower was added north of the PSB in 1986.

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