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Then and Now: Front Street
Sept. 27, 2021 Updated Mon., Sept. 27, 2021 at 3:46 p.m.
Circa 1910: Front Street, or Front Avenue, was the wide, unpaved street that faced the railroad depots and industrial areas around the Spokane River downtown. It was named by city founder James Glover. In 1912, the name was changed to Trent Avenue because Trent was an important east-west arterial outside the city limits, and landowners wanted the name to be consistent from the city limits to the downtown area. (Northwest Room/Spokane Public Library)
Spokane Falls Boulevard was the name chosen in a renaming contest in 1974 for the wide street that faces Riverfront Park.
Pioneer and city founder James Glover had first called it Front Street, or Front Avenue, when he arrived a century earlier. It was a common name for a business route in many cities. That name endured while Spokane blossomed into a bustling regional business center in the late 1800s. It was a wide, unpaved street lined with warehouses, rooming houses and businesses.
Front was also near multiple railroad lines, including the Great Northern, Spokane International and others. In 1902, the Great Northern opened their depot on Havermale Island and a freight warehouse on the nearby south bank. As more rail lines were being laid along Front to serve the new Union Station, the name was changed to Trent in 1912 to clarify that it was connected to Trent Road outside of city limits.
Trent was an area east of Millwood, at the crook in the Spokane River where Antoine Plante put his ferry crossing in the 1860s. Trent Road was a rugged unpaved track from Havana and Olive and followed the Northern Pacific tracks northeast through Trent, later called Irwin, and on to the Idaho border.
In 1898, Spokane County road crews graded and smoothed the track as best they could. The Spokane River through Trent, shallow and full of boulders, was a popular area for fishing, swimming and exploring. Although there were no cars yet, the county road planners knew people wanted to go there. “When this is in good condition, bicycle riders can take a straight shoot east to the hunting and fishing grounds at Newman or Spirit Lakes or to the Coeur d’Alenes with less exertion and in less time,” according to E.E. Alexander, who worked on the project, in the Spokane Chronicle.
Trent Road, from the city limits at Havana Street to Hardesty Road, actually ran on Northern Pacific land, and the railroad wanted to create a new rail switching yard there in 1911. The city and the railroad had feuded over the road’s ownership until 1911, when the county agreed to vacate the old road and the railroad would build the new road north of the new yard, starting at Mission Avenue. Hardesty would later be renamed Fancher Way.