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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Then and Now: Electro-Kold

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 28, 2020

Starting around 1915, a revolution in household refrigeration began the transition from home-delivered blocks of ice kept in an “ice box” to compressors and coolant inside of a refrigerator.

One of the pioneering brands in refrigeration was Electro-Kold Sales based in what is now called the Joel Building at 151 S. Post St.

Starting around 1920, the company manufactured home refrigerators and commercial units.

The capacity of the earliest refrigerators was small compared to today’s units, because half or more of the cabinet space was filled with a noisy compressor and associated machinery.

One area of business for Electro-Kold was to install the compressor machinery in the basement of an apartment building and pipe the coolant to refrigerator units in each apartment. When the Great Depression hit and landlords couldn’t afford their equipment payments to Electro-Kold, the company was in financial jeopardy.

One of the company’s key employees, Edwin S. Matthews, organized a partnership and bought the company at auction in 1932. Matthews, a Lewis and Clark grad who went to Harvard to study engineering and business, held patents in refrigeration technology and would grow the firm into a household name.

Washington Water Power was an early investor in the company and would promote and sell electric refrigerators.

Up against bigger manufacturers like Westinghouse and Kelvinator, Matthews would later pivot away from domestic refrigerators and focus on commercial refrigeration and air conditioning.

In 1956, the company moved to 303 E. Second Ave.

According to son John Matthews, who worked as an Electro-Kold service manager, the company shut down at the time of his father’s death in 1968.

In the 1960s, Joel Inc. moved into the former Electro-Kold building. The stylish furniture and gift store was started in 1950 by Joel E. Ferris II, nephew of well-known banker Joel E. Ferris of Spokane and Eastern bank. Ferris hired modern architects to remodel the facade.

The store closed in 2005, but the “Joel” name stuck.

The building was gutted by a fire of unknown origin in 2008 and the north half of the building would be torn down. Two years later, developer Ron Wells would turn the upper floors into condominium apartments called The Lofts at Joel.

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