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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Family Fun: Library maps out walk through Spokane history

UPDATED: Sun., April 18, 2021

The Spokane County Library District is honoring National Celebrate Diversity Month with a walk through some of Spokane’s history.

The 4.5-mile route has 29 stops at plaques, statues and buildings throughout downtown and Riverfront Park, all with a story about the people – especially women, Native Americans, African Americans and Asian Americans – who helped create Spokane.

“I think there are lots of little things that could surprise people,” said librarian Molly Moore.

A map and slideshow of the tour are available at scld.org/spokane-area-history-walk/, where there’s a link to download a printable version, too. It’s also available at historypin.org (search for “Spokane Area History Walk Collection”), where Moore has created a collection that includes sites outside the downtown core.

To make the tour walkable, Moore had to be selective, so “there are lots of things in Spokane County of the region that I couldn’t include because you can’t walk there,” Moore said. She hopes the historypin.org collection will help people discover some of those sites, too. Community members are invited to add pins to that collection.

For each stop on the walking tour, Moore has written short reflections and included resources for further study.

The walking tour starts at a railroad underpass on Washington Street. There’s a yin and yang symbol at the top of the arch, the logo for the Northern Pacific Railroad and a reminder of the legacy of the Chinese workers who built the railroads in the American West, Moore writes in the tour description.

From there, the tour moves to the Hutton Building, where Moore highlights the work of May Arkwright Hutton, who was a big supporter of the suffragist movement in Washington. She also was a philanthropist with her husband, Levi Hutton, after striking it rich in Silver Valley mining.

At a stop at Washington and Main, Moore describes what was once known as Trent Alley, or Spokane’s Chinatown. The Spokane Public Schools district offices are one of several sites that highlight the work of Carl Maxey, Spokane’s first Black lawyer.

At the Spokane Convention Center, the tour stops at a statue honoring astronaut Michael P. Anderson, a Cheney High School graduate who died when the space shuttle Columbia exploded on re-entry in 2003.

There are several stops in Riverfront Park, including the Clocktower and the Canada Island Totem. The tour also stops at many of the park’s statues, among them Childhood Express (the red wagon), the Garbage Goat and one honoring the Sisters of Providence, who raised money for Spokane’s first hospital and is “a really cool example of women getting stuff done,” Moore said

Moore says to make sure to wear good walking shoes and bring water – and split up the tour into two or more days, if necessary. The walk is on sidewalks and paved paths, so it is accessible for those pushing strollers or using wheelchairs.

For families wanting to add an extra level of education, Moore suggests bringing a compass along on the walk. She uses directions like “look west” in the descriptions so kids can practice using their cardinal directions.

Moore hopes the tour and her reflections can be a jumping-off point for family conversation about Spokane’s history, she said.

“It’s an opportunity to see things they might have seen before with a different perspective,” she said.

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