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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane investors acquire historic Bennett Block building

Two Spokane couples recently purchased the historic Bennett Block building at Main Avenue and Howard Street, shown in 2019.  (JESSE TINSLEY/The Spokesman-Review)

The historic Bennett Block building in downtown Spokane has changed hands after more than a century of ownership by the Hieber family.

Nicholas Knapton and wife, Lori, partnered with Scott and Julia Simmons, all of Spokane, to acquire the building on the northeast corner of Howard Street and Main Avenue from Dru Hieber for $6 million, according to data from the Spokane County Recorder’s Office.

The Bennett Block’s three adjoined stuctures were built in 1890 and 1892. The Bennett Block, which was among the first group of buildings constructed after The Great Fire of 1889, is on the Spokane Register of Historic Places.

“I’m very grateful to Dru because I do know how important of a property it is to her family. It’s something they’ve had for a century, and I know what (the building) means to Spokane,” Knapton said. “We will do our very best to take care of it into the next century.”

The Bennett Block holds special meaning for Knapton, a Spokane native who recalls spending time in the building’s retail shops while growing up in the Lilac City. The building is near Riverfront Park and the Looff Carrousel, which he considers the “heart of Spokane.”

“It’s just a really fun spot. There’s a lot of happiness there,” he said. “People love going to Carhartt and eating at Mizuna.”

Knapton plans to maintain the building’s legacy, while also retaining its current tenants.

In addition to Mizuna and Carhartt, the building houses Spokane Pizza Co., Egnyte, Purgatory Craft and Whiskey, Blissful Blends, Smith Co. and Indaba Coffee. It’s also connected to downtown Spokane’s skywalk system.

“We have great tenants in the building, and it’s pretty much fully occupied,” Knapton said. “It’s just a really fun spot to have retail, but the office space on the second and third floors is really done well. We are planning to keep it in its current state.”

Prior to the building’s sale, the Bennett Block was owned by the Hieber family for 112 years. John G.F. Hieber, a successful Spokane businessman and real estate developer, began buying the Bennett Block properties in 1909. By 1928, Hieber owned the entire block, which consists of the Bennett, Lockhardt and Star Hotel buildings, according to a nomination document for the Spokane Register of Historic Places.

The Hieber family conducted significant modifications to the Bennett Block in 1967 and 1978. Dru Hieber, granddaughter of John G.F. Hieber, assumed ownership and management of the Bennett Block in 2007 and remodeled the three buildings again in 2014.

“I was the third generation to make improvements to the building. My grandfather bought it. My father remodeled it in the 1970s. I took over in 2007 and made significant changes to bring an old building back into working marvel,” Hieber said. “It was a lot of heartache, but a lot of pleasure as well.”

Hieber said she made the difficult decision to sell the Bennett Block because she wants to spend more time with her children and grandchildren.

“It was hard for me to do this, but it’s time to let someone else take the reins,” she said. “I commend the new owners in making it the best it can be. I believe Nick is the person that will do that.”