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The facility on Havermale Island prior to Expo '74 was indicative of the push to move mail by rail in the early 20th century, even as would-be thieves targeted trains.
While organizers were planning a world's fair in the early 1970s, boosters were also pitching the idea of a natural downtown playground that would be left in its wake. That idea became Riverfront Park.
The location of the downtown John Deere warehouse in Spokane, built in 1910, was tied to the railroads in the city's urban center. The arrival of the World's Fair in 1974 led to the realignment of those railroads, and the John Deere building was used for storage and staging during Expo '74.
Forty-six years ago – with just 72 days before the World’s Fair officially kicked off in Spokane – Tim Welsh climbed to the top of the incomplete U.S. Pavilion, popped the collar of his thick flannel jacket against the February chill and smiled for the camera. “All those cables you see, I measured every one of them. I did most of the surveying and layout of the project,” said Welsh, who was project engineer on the U.S. Pavilion for Expo ’74.
The original Spokane Convention Center has expanded to encompass an area of the riverside that was formerly a Great Northern rail yard, and later popular restaurant C.I. Shenanigans.
Much of Spokane’s downtown railroad and industrial infrastructure was removed in preparation for Expo ’74. But some areas weren’t ready for redevelopment until after Spokane’s big moment on the world stage.
About 5 million people came to Spokane in 1974 for the World’s Fair. Most left, but not Susan Virnig. And he’s been educating and getting Spokanites involved ever since. From her founding of Northwest Regional Facilitators – which begat a host of beneficial Spokane organizations – to her leadership of the YWCA to her years teaching poetry to children, Virnig has touched a lot of lives.
The great ice age floods that shaped the Inland Northwest also are shaping the new playground in the North Bank of Riverfront Park.
A playground focused on accessibility for disabled children is set to be built near the upper Spokane Falls in Riverfront Park. Early project plans and designs were presented June 12 to the Spokane Design Review Board by SPVV Landscape Architects, of Spokane.
Bill Youngs wrote a comprehensive book about the Spokane River and Expo ’74, “The Fair and the Falls,” and contends the drama and beauty of the falls cutting through downtown Spokane rivals the majesty of any national park. The river was rescued from an existence as a “trash dump,” and the cleaning and beautification of the park continues to this day.
As Spokane transforms many of its Expo ’74 era icons, one council member believes it’s also time for a new flag.
For the first time in decades, a steel-framed butterfly towers above the north-bank entrance to Riverfront Park.
Careful planning and modern design were hallmarks of the Washington State Pavilion at Expo ’74 in Spokane. The facility included an auditorium for nearly 3,000 people, exhibit halls and a theater. Post-fair, the Legislature transferred the facility to the city.
Even before the world’s fair, Expo ’74, closed down, the city of Spokane was embroiled in discussions of what to do with the 100-acre site. There was a strong movement to build, and against building, a new City Hall in the park to replace the 1914 building across the street. There was strong support for an ice rink and a new Imax theater under the U.S. Pavilion. Many thought the gondola ride over the falls should stay.
The first corporate exhibitor to sign on for Expo ’74 was Ford Motor Co. The commitment was made in January of 1973, just 17 months before the opening ceremonies in May of 1974.
Historian Robert Hyslop, in his book “Spokane Building Blocks,” explains why Spokane’s Union Station, shown under construction in 1913, was called a station and not a depot. There had already been a Union Depot in Spokane serving the OR&N, the Union Pacific and the Great Northern in Spokane’s earliest days. In addition, people thought the word “depot” was old-fashioned and “station” was more stylish.
Early bridges across the various channels of the Spokane River were made of wood, then steel and, eventually, concrete or stone. And when the Great Northern Railroad depot opened on Havermale Island in 1902, with its iconic Clocktower, access from downtown was only via the Howard Street bridge. So a new steel-supported bridge was hastily built, aligned with Washington Street, that dead-ended at the depot to get passengers to the trains.
The 1894 Spokane City Hall at Howard and Front streets symbolized the optimism and grand dreams of a railroad boomtown.
The full Spokane Park Board will vote later this month on a design and location for “Step Well,” architect and artist J. Meejin Yoon’s sculpture for Riverfront Park. The MIT instructor and award-winning designer also has plans to tie together existing artwork and promote future works by local artists following the attraction’s redevelopment.
In fall 1973, Eric Grohe was a young graphic artist working in New York City when he returned home for a visit to Seattle. “I ran into Brent Blake, literally on the street in downtown Seattle,” Grohe said. “He said, ‘Hey, I need a graphic designer.’ ”