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Chase, James E. (1914-1987)
James E. Chase was a popular and respected Spokane civic leader who went from shoe-shiner to the first African American mayor in Spokane's history. He was born in Wharton, Texas, in 1914, to a poor family. The Great Depression put an end to his high school education when his all-black high school closed. He worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps in El Paso and then he and three friends rode the rails to Spokane in 1934 to look for new opportunities. Chase shined shoes at a local barbershop and in 1939 went into the auto body repair business. He did repair work for the Army air base in Spokane during World War II. He became president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP in 1950, a post he held for 17 of the ensuing 19 years. He and his wife Eleanor Barrow Chase (1918-2002), from a prominent Spokane black family, were strong believers in civic involvement. James Chase was elected to the Spokane City Council in 1975, the first black council member since the 1890s. He ran for mayor in 1981 and won by a landslide, a historic feat in a city with a black population hovering between 1 and 2 percent. He served a successful term as mayor, but ill health in 1985 prevented him from seeking a second term. He died of cancer in 1987. His impact on Spokane can be measured in the many ways his name lives on, through the James E. Chase Middle School, the Chase Art Gallery at Spokane City Hall, and the Chase Youth Commission, dedicated to improving the lives of the city's youth.
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Chief Spokane Garry (ca. 1811-1892)
Chief Spokane Garry was a chief of the Spokane Tribe whose long, and ultimately tragic life spanned the fur-trading, missionary, and white settlement eras of the region. His father, also a Spokane chief, sent Garry off with fur traders at age 14 to be educated at the Red River Settlement's missionary school in Canada. Garry returned after five years, fluent in English and French, to become an influential leader and spokesman for his tribe. He opened a rough school to teach reading and writing and also taught his fellow tribesmen agricultural techniques. He participated in many peace councils, including those of 1855 and 1858, and was known as a steadfast advocate of peace and an equally steadfast advocate of a fair land settlement for his tribe. He never wavered on his insistence that the Spokane people should have the rights to their native lands along the Spokane River, a goal which proved unattainable. His own farm in what is now the Hillyard area of Spokane was stolen from him late in life and he and his sadly diminished band were forced to camp in Hangman Valley, where boys from the growing city of Spokane would throw rocks onto their tepees. A kindly landowner allowed Garry and his family to camp in Indian Canyon, where he lived out the rest of his life in poverty. He died there in 1892 and was buried in a pauper's grave. Decades later, a Spokane city park was named after him and a statue erected in his honor.
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Corbin, Daniel Chase, (1832-1918)
Mining and railroad magnate, Daniel Chase Corbin ranks as a major shaper of the growth and prosperity of Spokane, the economic and geographic center of the Inland Northwest. He settled in Spokane in 1889, already an experienced Western entrepreneur and well positioned to survive the Panic of 1893, which depleted the fortunes of Spokane's earliest tycoons. The bulk of Corbin's wealth was based on his railroads that "stitched the [Idaho Panhandle and British Columbia Kootenay] mines to Spokane," enriching and forever changing his adopted city (Fahey, Inland Empire,
3). Over the years, he was substantially involved in other enterprises as diverse as banking, real estate, irrigation, beet sugar production, and coal mining. Corbin often was pointed out as Spokane's richest man as he passed in his buggy, its superb team driven at top speed by a coachman. But unlike many of his wealthy predecessors and contemporaries, Corbin was not a civic leader or benefactor, at least in any obvious way, and, upon his death, his wealth remained with his descendants. His personal and family life was full of enigmas, and his aloof demeanor did not make him popular in the community. Furthermore, his secretiveness about earnings and assets would not be allowed under today's business regulations. Yet Corbin's contribution to his adopted city was massive, his railroads and other ventures enabling such wealth to pour into Spokane that, during his time, it became the hub of the "Inland Empire."
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Crosby, Bing (1903-1977) and Mildred Bailey (1907-1951), Spokane's Jazz Royalty
The music careers of a couple of the twentieth century's most significant singing stars -- Bing "The King of the Crooners" Crosby and Mildred "That Princess of Rhythm" Bailey -- are so intertwined that their stories are perhaps best told as one. Those two innovative Jazz Age vocalists both went on to conquer the music world in big ways, but their shared beginnings on the fringes of the Spokane, Washington, Prohibition Era speakeasy jazz scene were quite humble.
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Cutter, Kirtland Kelsey (1860-1939), Architect
Kirtland Kelsey Cutter was primarily a Spokane architect with a significant practice in Spokane, Seattle, and Southern California, as well as commissions as far away as England. Of Spokane's many prolific and successful architects, he is the best known to the general public today. Spokane is where he first made his reputation, his buildings giving clues about the "economy, power structure, social life, and changing fortunes" of the growing city (Matthews, Spokane and the Inland Empire,
143). Cutter's career spanned 50 years, from 1889 to his death in 1939. His legacy of large-scale houses and public buildings still standing in Spokane, Seattle, Southern California, and elsewhere is varied and impressive.
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Davenport Hotel (Spokane)
Davenport Hotel of Spokane opened its doors on September 1, 1914, and was soon acclaimed one of the world's grand hotels. Spokane already had fine hotels, but civic and business leaders, intent on increasing the population of the already flourishing city, were convinced that a large, elegant hotel attracting more conventions, business people, and tourists would help achieve that goal. In restaurateur Louis M. Davenport (1868-1951) these promoters discovered an ideal man to carry out their project. Louis Davenport hired Spokane architect Kirtland Kelsey Cutter (1860-1939) to design the hotel, and Cutter's dignified building and aesthetic interior appointments resulted in an unsurpassed facility. Davenport's genius for restaurant and hotel management provided hotel guests from presidents to humble traveling salesmen with a level of comfort and hospitality that would become legendary.
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Durkin, James (1859-1934)
James "Jimmie" Durkin gained notoriety in the Inland Empire of Eastern Washington as Spokane's legendary liquor tycoon. Wild tales abound regarding his outlandish exploits and stunts, but beyond becoming one of the town's most successful businessmen and an early millionaire, Durkin earned a well-deserved reputation as a thinking man. Indeed, locals and area newspapers routinely referred to the one-time gubernatorial candidate as no less than "Spokane's Main Avenue philosopher."
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Felts Field (Spokane)
Felts Field, Spokane's historic airfield, is located on the south bank of the Spokane River east of Spokane proper. Aviation activities began there in 1913. In 1920 the field, then called the Parkwater airstrip, was designated a municipal flying field at the instigation of the Spokane Chamber of Commerce. In 1926, the United States Department of Commerce officially recognized Parkwater as an airport, one of the first in the West. In September 1927, in conjunction with Spokane's National Air Derby and Air Races, the airport was renamed Felts Field for James Buell Felts (1898-1927), a Washington Air National Guard aviator killed in a crash that May. Parkwater Aviation Field, later Felts Field, was the location for flight instruction, charter service, airplane repair, aerial photography, headquarters of the 116th Observation Squadron of the Washington Air National Guard, and eventually the first airmail and commercial flights in and out of Spokane. After World War II, commercial air traffic moved to Geiger Field (later Spokane International Airport). Felts Field remains a busy regional hub for private and small-plane aviation and related businesses and services. In 1991 it was designated Felts Field Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.
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Fox Theater (Spokane)
Spokane's Fox Theater, today called the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox, is a 1931 Art Deco movie theater turned modern concert hall. Located on Monroe Street between Sprague and 1st avenues, it is also one of the best-restored of the grand Fox "movie palaces." The Fox opened on September 3, 1931, in a gala event that included a number of top Fox movie stars. It immediately became the grandest and most opulent theater in the city, with huge Art Deco sunburst light fixtures, murals, and a grand staircase to the balcony. It also served as the city's main concert hall for its first three decades, hosting such stars as Sergei Rachmaninoff, Jascha Heifetz, and Vladimir Horowitz. Beginning in the 1950s, the theater went into a long, slow decline. In 1975, the theater was partitioned into a triplex. In 1989, it became a discount movie house. Demolition appeared to be its fate in 2000, but the Spokane Symphony staged a massive fundraising to purchase it, and a second campaign to renovate it as a concert hall. After years of work, it reopened on November 17, 2007, and became the home of the Spokane Symphony.
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Father Joseph Cataldo (1837-1928) founded Gonzaga College in 1887 as a Jesuit school for boys in the muddy pioneer town of Spokane. The campus, on a choice parcel of land on the Spokane River, soon attracted boarding students from around the West and day students from the growing city of Spokane. By the turn of the century, it had a new church, a new four-story brick hall, and 244 students, making it the largest Catholic college in the Northwest. The school was divided between a preparatory department for younger students and an academic department for older students. It soon acquired a baseball team, a symphony, and a military cadet corps. A grand brick, double-spired St. Aloysius Church was completed in 1911. In 1912, Gonzaga College became Gonzaga University and the Gonzaga School of Law opened. Football became a Gonzaga University passion as early as 1892 -- but was dropped in 1942. The school's most famous alumnus, Bing Crosby (1903-1977), dropped out of his pre-law studies in the 1924 after deciding that his future lay in jazz rather than jurisprudence. The school weathered a financial crisis during the Great Depression and during World War II, lost most of its regular students to wartime service, but became a center for U.S. Navy training programs. In 1948, the school admitted women for the first time and began a period of modernization and expansion. It remained a Jesuit institution, but by 1965, Jesuits made up only a third of the faculty. By 1990, it had acquired professional accreditation in such fields as law, nursing, engineering, and business. In the 1990s and 2000s, the university became known nationally for its basketball success. As of 2007, total enrollment topped 6,000 and Gonzaga was thriving more than it ever had in its 120-year history.
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Graves, Jay P. (1859-1948)
Few entrepreneurs have been more important to the development of Spokane and the Inland Northwest or involved in a broader range of endeavors than Jay P. Graves. Arriving in Spokane from Illinois in 1887, he became modestly successful in real estate. After the Panic of 1893, he profited from the fall of others to build (and eventually lose) a major fortune in mining, railroads, and real estate. Graves put his stamp on Spokane with his urban and suburban developments, while his city and interurban railroads contributed to the growth and prosperity of Spokane and the surrounding area. His donations of land, although prompted more by self-interest than altruism, nevertheless resulted in Spokane's Manito Park and a new campus for Whitworth College. For many years, Graves's respite from business cares was his English-style model farm on the Little Spokane River. Although his personal fortunes eventually declined, Graves would be remembered for "his contributions for the betterment of quality of life, the business community, agriculture, mining, railroad building [which] greatly enhanced Spokane's stature as a city, its growth and development" (Moldovan, 54).
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Hurn, Reba (1881-1967)
Spokane lawyer Reba (Rebecca Jane) Hurn was the first woman elected to the Washington State Senate, serving from 1923 to 1930. Before launching her legal and political careers, she pursued graduate work at Heidelberg University in Germany, then worked for New York philanthropist and political activist Nathan Straus, who became her mentor. Her assistance with Straus's Democratic Party activities provided Hurn with first-hand political experience long before she ran for office as a Republican in 1922. As the lone woman in the state senate, she at first attracted press attention more as a novelty than as the serious legislator that she soon became. After two terms in office, she returned to her law practice in Spokane, remained active in public affairs, and was a world traveler of unusual perception and daring.
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Hutton, May Arkwright (1860-1915)
May Arkwright Hutton is probably the best-known woman's name in Spokane history. The woman suffrage leader and political activist grew up in Ohio and came west to the Coeur d'Alene mining area as a young woman. First as a saloon cook, then a boarding house owner, she became known as the best cook in the Coeur d'Alenes. There she met locomotive engineer, Levi W. Hutton (1860-1928), whom she married in 1887. Theirs was a classic American rags to riches story. The Huttons and their partners owned the Hercules Mine, which eventually produced enough silver and lead to make them millionaires. In 1906 they moved to Spokane, where Levi diversified into real estate and May became a philanthropist, the prime mover in Eastern Washington's woman suffrage movement, and an active figure in Democratic Party politics.
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Inland Empire Rock: The Sound of Eastern Washington
The "Northwest Sound" usually describes that regional strain of R&B-tinged rock 'n' roll that was forged decades ago (ca. 1957-1964) in various Puget Sound-area towns and then taken to wider prominence with hit records by coastal bands like the Frantics, the Wailers, the Sonics, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. But just across the Cascade Mountains in the "Inland Empire" of Eastern Washington another rock scene was also simmering. And although some of the earliest rockin' and rollin' there owed more of a stylistic debt to rural 1950s rockabilly sounds than to West Coast R&B, in ensuing years the area contributed significantly to subsequent trends, including the Pacific Northwest's grunge explosion of the 1990s.
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Jewish Community of Spokane
The first synagogue in the state opened in Spokane in 1892, but the city's Jewish history began even before the little village of Spokane Falls existed. In 1879, Indians told Simon Berg, the first known Jewish resident, that he was not the first "egg-eater" they had met. Apparently, other Jewish traders observing the kosher dietary rules had visited before. Berg built a store in tiny Spokane Falls in 1879 and by 1885 he had been joined by at least a dozen other Jewish merchants. The town's first Jewish services were held in a private home in 1885. In 1890, the Jewish community met to organize a Reform congregation, called Congregation Emanu-El. On September 14, 1892, they dedicated their synagogue, Temple Emanu-El, the first in the state by four days, since Seattle's Ohaveth Sholum opened within a week. Jewish merchants and financiers played a key role in the development of Spokane during its early decades. A second congregation, the Orthodox Keneseth Israel congregation was formed in 1901. Both congregations thrived until they merged in 1966 and built a new, modern temple, the Temple Beth Shalom. It remains the center of Spokane's Jewish community today. The city's Jewish population has remained steady through the decade, yet is estimated at less than 1 percent of the metropolitan area's population.
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Manning, William Morley (1877-1944)
William Morley Manning, a native of Ontario, Canada, arrived in the Inland Northwest in 1897 to seek his fortune in the region's burgeoning mines. During the following decade, he worked as an assayer, mining engineer, and county surveyor throughout Northeastern Washington. In the course of his travels, Manning began purchasing artifacts from the Colville, Kalispel, Nez Perce, and Spokane tribes; in 1916, he loaned a sizable collection to the Spokane Historical Society. This donation became the charter collection of the Eastern Washington Historical Society upon its formation two years later. Currently housed in climate-controlled storage at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture in Spokane, the Manning Collection comprises a valuable record of traditional Plateau artistry and craftsmanship at the beginning of the twentieth century.
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Maxey, Carl (1924-1997)
Carl Maxey was Spokane's first prominent black attorney and an influential and controversial civil-rights leader. He was born in 1924 in Tacoma and raised as an orphan in Spokane. He overcame an almost Dickensian childhood to become a household name in Eastern Washington, beginning in the 1940s when he won an NCAA boxing championship for Gonzaga University in Spokane. Later, after becoming a lawyer, he threw himself into Washington state's civil-rights struggle, defending a black citizen's right to get a haircut, teach in the public schools, join a social club, and buy a house in any neighborhood. He went to Mississippi to participate in the Freedom Summer of 1964 where he worked with Stokely Carmichael (1941-1998) and Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968). Through a long and flamboyant career, he defended the Seattle Seven in a scandalous anti-Vietnam-War protest trial; ran against Senator Henry (Scoop) Jackson (1912-1983) for the U.S. Senate on an anti-war platform; defended notorious serial rapist Kevin Coe and Coe's mother Ruth; and was nominated for the Washington State Supreme Court. He was loved by many for his unwavering stands against racial discrimination, and resented by many others for upsetting the status quo. He died in 1997 when he shot himself in the head in his bedroom in Spokane. The New York Times
headlined his obituary: "Type-A Gandhi."
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Mount Spokane State Park
Mount Spokane, the largest of Washington state parks, began as a small privately owned parcel of land on the flank of the 5,883-foot mountain in northeast Spokane County. The mountain, its rounded dome easily visible from Spokane, is slightly more than an hour's drive northeast of the city. The summit affords views in all directions: the city and valley of Spokane, North Idaho lakes, the Pend Oreille River, even peaks in Canada. Over the years, through purchases and donations, the property that became the park has been expanded to 14,000 acres. It is now a major recreational area for Eastern Washington, providing excellent facilities for winter and summer activities.
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Olmsted Parks in Spokane
Nearly all Spokane's beautiful parks and parkways were first conceived by a legendary firm: the Olmsted Brothers, Landscape Architects, of Brookline, Massachusetts, of New York's Central Park fame. In 1907, Aubrey L. White (1868-1948), the first president of the young city's new Park Board, was determined to make Spokane into a model of modern park planning. White discovered that John Charles Olmsted (1852-1920) was making trips out west to oversee other projects in the Northwest, so convinced him to make stopovers in Spokane. On these trips Olmsted and his associates roamed the city's bluffs, river gorge, and forests. His firm issued a report in 1908 proposing an ambitious plan that called for four massive new parks, five smaller local parks, 11 playfields, numerous parkways, and major improvements to 10 existing parks. Many of these recommendations were put into effect following the passage of a $1 million bond issue in 1910. By 1913, the city had multiplied its park acreage tenfold. Today, many of Spokane' best-known public spaces, including the Finch Arboretum, High Bridge Park, and Downriver Park, owe their existence to the Olmsted report. Even pre-existing parks, including Manito Park, owe much of their aesthetic appeal to Olmsted suggestions. Olmsted even foresaw that the city would one day reclaim the downtown riverfront, which became Riverfront Park in 1974. A century after the report was drafted, Spokane' park planners and civic activists still look to the Olmsted Report for guidance.
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Shadle Park: Spokane's First "Modern" High School
Shadle Park High School, located at 4327 N Ash Street in northwest Spokane, was built in the mid-1950s and opened for classes in September 1957. Designed by Culler, Gale, Martell & Norriet, the building was Spokane's first Modernist-style high school. The asymmetrical, multi-tiered structure is made of concrete, glass, and composite materials. Shadle Park High School had a notable building and also met with almost immediate success both in the educational and athletic fields, earning many awards and accolades. This is a tradition the school has continued ever since. The building was remodeled in 2007-2008.
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