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100 years ago in Spokane: Fireworks spark 40 fires; New York rabbi lays cornerstone of new synagogue

UPDATED: Fri., July 3, 2020

The cornerstone of Spokane’s new Temple Emanu-El at Eight Avenue and Walnut Street was laid by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise of New York, “one of the great Jewish leaders of the world,” the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on July 5, 1920.  (Spokesman-Review archives)
The cornerstone of Spokane’s new Temple Emanu-El at Eight Avenue and Walnut Street was laid by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise of New York, “one of the great Jewish leaders of the world,” the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on July 5, 1920. (Spokesman-Review archives)
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

The Fourth of July was particularly destructive in Spokane in 1920, with 40 fires, a shocking amount of structural damage and at least one injury.

The Spokesman-Review reported that, “practically without exception,” fireworks were the culprit. Many of the fires were roof fires, probably caused by rockets or firecrackers.

One house on the north side was nearly destroyed, and a firefighter suffered a serious eye injury which “may impair his sight.”

The paper said the day established a sorry record “never before equaled or even approached” for the fire department on the Fourth of July.

From the Wobbly beat: Meanwhile, the holiday event that city leaders had been most alarmed about – the Workers Parade and Picnic – turned out to be quiet and peaceful.

No parade materialized, and the picnic at Audubon Park was so tranquil that “a Sunday School picnic was riotous by comparison.” About 500 workers, presumably including some Wobblies, showed up for the picnic, but city officials made sure they had a miserable time. They ordered the ice cream and soft drink vendors to depart, ostensibly for lack of permits.

From the religion beat: The cornerstone of Spokane’s new Temple Emanu-El at Eight Avenue and Walnut Street was laid by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise of New York, “one of the great Jewish leaders of the world.”

Hundreds of people were present to witness the ceremony. The rabbi said it was fitting that the ceremony took place on the Fourth of July, because it affirmed the “indivisible unity of the spirit that obtains between American democracy and the religious fellowship of israel.”

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