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

Then and Now: Welch Building

The nine-story Welch Building, built by financier and railroad builder Patrick Welch at Howard Street and Main Avenue, opened as the home of the department store Culbertson, Grote-Rankin when it was built in 1914. The building took up a quarter of a city block and upper floors held many office tenants, including the Farm Credit Administration and Welch’s investment company.

Frank R. Culbertson came to the northwest in 1885, after running stores and building roads in Ohio and Tennessee. He arrived with father-in-law S.S. Glidden and both invested in mining ventures in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains. Glidden was a founder of the Old National Bank in Spokane.

In 1904, Culbertson opened the Wonder department store in Spokane, which grew rapidly. The department store merged with the Grote-Rankin furniture store in 1912 to form Culbertson, Grote-Rankin.

Culbertson bought out his partners and constructed the Culbertson Annex, an eight-story storage building just north of his store, in 1919. Because building materials were at wartime prices, the expenditure, followed by post-war deflation, may have led to the company’s bankruptcy in 1930. Culbertson died later that year at the age of 72.

The empty department store space was used by Pratt Furniture and others through the 1930s.

The Seattle-based Bon Marché department store, in business since 1890, entered the Spokane market in 1945 by leasing the former Culbertson space and the smaller two-story building west of it. The Bon was part of the C.C. Anderson stores, later owned by the Boise-based Allied Stores.

In 1956, the company built a full-height addition at the Wall Street and Main Avenue corner, with all floors connecting into the Welch building’s floor plan. The Main frontage was modernized with a tan stucco façade.

The 1950s and 1960s were a heyday of department stores with Sears, J.C. Penney and Montgomery Ward competing with the Crescent store and the newcomer Bon Marché. There were also discount variety stores like Grant’s, Newberry and Woolworth.

In 1990, Allied Stores were bought by Federated Department Stores, which also owned Macy’s and Bloomingdales. In 2003, the name Bon-Macy’s appeared on local stores, then just Macy’s in 2005.

The downtown Macy’s closed in 2016 and was purchased by Centennial Properties, part of the Cowles Company, which also owns The Spokesman-Review. The complex has been remodeled into luxury apartments.