Spokane’s South Hill and Browne’s Addition are known for large, sometimes historic, homes built between the city’s 1880s founding and World War II.
An aerial survey of northwest Spokane shows thousands of uniform, two-bedroom homes north of Wellesley, almost all built after WWII.
During the post-war construction boom, most of these homes were built by Western Mortgage Co. and Western Builders Inc., and their subsidiary businesses, including Alberta Homes, Northhill Homes, Wellesley Villages, Decatur Homes, Endicott Homes and Westview Investments, each one focused on a particular northside development.
R. Kline Hilman, a Seattle-area financier, organized Western Mortgage Co., later merged it with real estate firm Murphey Favre and financed many northside homes.
Vincent C. Buck, born in 1905, moved to Spokane in 1942. During his first years in Spokane, Buck worked under the name Spokane Homes Inc., which completed 672 “defense homes” in 1943, mostly for servicemen and wartime factory workers.
In 1946, Buck and Leo C. Higbee partnered to form Western Builders and, with backing from Western Mortgage, began building homes at a furious pace in the late 1940s and 1950s. In the late 1940s, the basic homes were selling for $6,350.
“They are being bought mostly by young veterans and people trying to find a solution to the high cost of rent,” Buck told the newspaper.
The company’s classified ads offered new homes in Loma Vista for $400 down and $40 a month, including taxes and insurance. Loma Vista encompassed much of the area north of Wellesley, east of Driscoll Boulevard, west of the Maple/Ash corridor and south of Francis Avenue.
The builders bought out Hilman’s interest in their company around 1949.
The partners donated the land for Loma Vista Elementary School and park, using them as a selling point in their advertising.
Loma Vista Elementary opened in the fall of 1950 in a building cobbled together from temporary structures salvaged from Baxter General Hospital, a temporary regional military hospital built during World War II. Loma Vista Elementary was closed in 1982 and later demolished.
Higbee also built commercial properties, including the Five Mile Shopping Center at Francis and Ash and the Loma Vista Shopping Center at Alberta and Rowan.
In 1953, Western Builders told The Spokesman-Review they had built 2,500 homes so far. Later news stories estimated Buck and Higbee were responsible for more than 4,000 homes in Spokane.
Buck died 1998 and Higbee in 2011.
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