The Salvation Army was founded by Methodist minister William Booth in London in 1865. Booth established street missions to feed the hungry and house the homeless.
The movement, combining social work and religious proselytizing, arrived in the United States in 1884. It first appeared in Spokane in 1891 with three women playing a concertina and tambourines walking with a man playing cornet in downtown Spokane. Their first church service was held on a street corner at Howard Street and Riverside Avenue. Their first regular meeting place was a rented hall at Howard and Main Avenue.
The first Salvation Army workers were earnest street preachers, many of them women, who lectured strangers and argued with people who didn’t always want to hear their message.
In 1893, Spokane-based worker Captain Ida Bennett was killed by a man she had ministered to in the local jail. The killer, a man whom authorities said was smitten with the young outreach worker, shot her as she left a religious service.
Besides religious teaching, early work focused on feeding and housing single men. Holiday meals for the poor soon followed. One of the first dedicated Salvation Army facilities was the Booth Memorial Hospital, which was aimed at unwed mothers and their babies at 3400 W. Garland Ave., built around 1911. The Salvation Army last used that building in the 1990s as an alcohol treatment facility.
The organization purchased land at 245 W. Main Ave. around 1919 for $40,000 and raised money to spend about $125,000 total to erect a new building in 1921. The three-story headquarters had a shelter for single men, who paid a modest fee for a night’s rest there through its 50 years of operation. It had 53 rooms and promised “soup, soap and salvation” according to the hotel's slogan, and was euphemistically dubbed The Red Shield Hotel. Early on, there was a gymnasium in the basement.
The Salvation Army established a new multipurpose chapel, gymnasium, shelter and outreach center at Indiana Avenue and Lidgerwood Street, northeast of downtown, in the early 1970s. The Red Shield Hotel continued as a downtown residence hotel, but was plagued with violent crime and drug abuse. It closed around 1980. The building was later developed into Luigi’s Italian restaurant in the late 1980s.