The road through Riverside State Park was named the Aubrey L. White Parkway in 1936 after a bookish young man from New Jersey with a head for business and a love of gardening.
White, born in 1869, moved to Spokane in 1889. The former furniture salesman began working for mining and business magnate Jay P. Graves. In his spare time, he criss-crossed the Spokane area, making notes about natural areas, gardens and topography. Graves sent White back east to drum up interest in his mining projects, the Spokane Traction streetcar company and the new Inland Empire Railway. When Graves’ copper mines in British Columbia paid out, everybody got rich.
While in New York, White saw a city growing with little care about open space and preserving natural beauty.
White moved back to Spokane in 1906 and immersed himself in beautification projects, working with civic organizations and influential citizens like Graves, real estate investor F. Lewis Clark and William H. Cowles, owner of The Spokesman-Review. Behind White’s crusade for more parks, voters approved a city charter amendment to form the Spokane Park Board in 1907 with White as its first director.
In the first year, White convinced voters to pass a bond issue of $100,000 to hire the Olmsted brothers, renowned landscape architects from Brookline, Massachusetts, to assess the parks system and to purchase new park land.
The board also hired park superintendent John W. Duncan, who held the position until 1942.
When White began his crusade to expand parks in the city, the city had 173 acres of park land. By 1913, holdings had expanded to 1,480 acres.
White and his wife moved to a bucolic farm on the Little Spokane River in 1921, a move that disqualified him from serving on the board. But the avid gardener joined The Spokesman-Review staff and wrote about gardening until his death in 1948. Because of his first name, readers often wrote him letters addressing him as “Miss,” “Mrs.” or “Madame.”
A writer from Readers Digest asked him how he accomplished his crusade for more parks. White replied: “By going to every meeting of every association and club in town and out-talking everybody there.”
The Spokesman-Review wrote in his obituary: “Mr. White was Spokane’s greatest one-man institution and did more to make the city beautiful than any other man.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.