Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle celebrates Spokane Day on June 25, 1909.

  • By Laura Arksey
  • Posted 8/24/2008
  • Essay 8732
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On Friday, June 25, 1909, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle celebrates Spokane Day. Some 1,000 residents of Spokane and the Inland Empire descend on the exposition grounds, some 200 of them arriving by special overnight train. The day is the culmination of the week designated Inland Empire Week. The term "Inland Empire" is used to describe the Eastern Washington-Northern Idaho region of which Spokane is the hub. Spokane County is one of only four counties of the state to have its own building at the exposition.

The A-Y-P Exposition took place on the University of Washington campus in Seattle between June 1 and October 16, 1909, drawing more than three million people. Visitors came from around the state, the nation, and the world to view hundreds of educational exhibits, stroll the lushly manicured grounds, and be entertained on the Pay Streak midway, while Seattle promoted itself as a gateway to the rich resources of Alaska, the Yukon, and Asia. Each day of the A-Y-P was designated as a Special Day for one or more groups. Special Days drew people involved in the featured organizations, and the resulting programs, lectures, ceremonies, parades, and athletic competitions gave local people a reason to visit again and again.

The local committee for Spokane Day consisted of Lauchlin MacLean, chairman, E. D. Sanders, E. F. C. Van Dissel, F. R. Culbertson and N. E. Nuzum. They planned a gala event. On the evening of June 24, a Northern Pacific train sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce carried some 200 of Spokane's leading men and women on an overnight special to Seattle. Many were members of the 150,000 Club, an organization of boosters with the goal of increasing Spokane's population to that number. This package deal costing $25 per person included meals and sleeping berths to and from Seattle. The sleeper cars also served as the visitors' hotel for the weekend.

When the train arrived at the Seattle depot at 11:00 Friday morning, a band met the Spokane delegation. Hundreds of other visitors from Spokane and elsewhere in the Inland Empire converged on Seattle for Spokane Day and the remainder of the weekend. The regular Northern Pacific trains added extra sleepers and coaches to carry them. Newspaper accounts estimated the total number of fairgoers from the region at 1,000.

The Spokane Building

The distinguished and comfortable center for the Spokane participants and thousands of other fairgoers was the Spokane Building (or Spokane County Building), a Spanish Mission-style structure designed by the prolific Herman Preusse (1847-1926), Spokane's first trained architect, and his then-partner Julius Zittel (1869-1939). At 50 by 110 feet, it was one of the smaller buildings at the Exposition. Cost of construction was $10,000. The design of the Spokane Building was sometimes erroneously attributed to Kirtland Cutter (1860-1939), a rising Spokane architect with a growing reputation in Seattle and beyond. The Spokesman-Review article of July 22, 1909, that identified Preusse and Zittel as the architects did say they designed the building "along lines somewhat resembling those of Davenport's Restaurant" in Spokane, a Cutter building. Suffice it to say, the towers in both structures were common in Mission architecture of the period.

On the veranda of the Spokane Building, guests could relax in rockers, wicker chairs, or on benches. Inside was a large resting lounge containing comfortable furniture and Spokane newspapers and promotional material. The arched ceiling, painted black, contained friezes made of seeds, grain, and grasses, depicting scenes from Spokane County. The interior exhibits were designed by Mr. and Mrs. M. J. Wessells, caretakers of the building. The Seattle Daily Times of June 20 claimed: "No prettier building is established on the exposition grounds, and no interior decoration or exhibit excels that found in this cereal-lined fruit-banked county home." In the other room, visitors attended stereopticon-illustrated lectures extolling the products and promise of the Inland Empire. A special Spokane bronze medallion was distributed to thousands at the exposition. One side bore the image of the Spokane County Building and the other Spokane's slogan "All Roads Lead to Spokane, the Power City."

The Spokane County Building was opened to the public after its dedication on Spokane Day. At 1:30 that afternoon a band joined the more than 1,000 participants assembled at the Spokane County Building for a parade to the Washington Building, which was large enough to hold the dedication, subsequent receptions, and an evening banquet and dance. Each participant received a cane to which a colorful Spokane pennant was attached and a large blue badge identifying them as residents of the city.

For the dedication ceremony, Governor Marion Hay, a resident of Spokane, was expected to deliver the main address but sent regrets that state business had detained him in Olympia. The event did not lack for other luminaries, however: President of the exhibition John E. Chilberg gave the welcoming address, in which he said: "Of all the cities in the northwest, Spokane has more in lumber, agriculture, water power and mineral resources to exploit than any other ..." (Spokane Takes A-Y-P). Among the other speakers were Spokane mayor Nelson S. Pratt (1861-1937); Seattle mayor John F. Miller; F. E. Goodall, president of the Spokane Chamber of Commerce; Laughlin MacLean, chairman of the Spokane exposition committee; and F. Robbert Insinger (1862-1946), chairman of the board of the National Irrigation Congress to be held in Spokane in August. The Elks Quartet of Spokane sang "In Sunny Old Spokane" and "Meet Me in Seattle."

The beautiful Spokane County Building was one of many dismantled after the exposition.

On Saturday, the Spokane and Inland Empire visitors had free time to visit exhibits, attend concerts and lectures, and enjoy the Pay Streak midway. Sunday was another gala day, with a chartered cruise of Puget Sound for 1,000 Inland Empire passengers on the steamship Chippewa. This event was included in the $25 special train ticket. Others paid $4.25 for the cruise, with lunch and dinner aboard. According to an account in the June 25 Seattle Post Intelligencer, the trip also involved a reception on board the U.S cruiser Tennessee and a tour of the Bremerton shipyards. The happy but no doubt exhausted visitors docked that evening in time for the 10:00 o'clock return train trip to Spokane.

Sources: Spokane Skyline: A Century of Architecture, 1889-1989 (Spokane: Eastern Washington State Historical Society), 42, 44; "Spokane County's Fine Home at Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Fair," Seattle Sunday Times, June 20, 1909, p. 3; "A-Y-P Exposition Program," Seattle Sunday Times, June 20, 1909, p. 26; "1,000 Citizens of Spokane Will Visit Fair," Seattle Sunday Times, June 20, 1909, p. 3; "Spokane County Building to be Completed April 1st, Cost $10,000," Spokesman-Review, March 15, 1909, p. 7; "Hay Will Speak on Spokane Day," Spokesman-Review, June 20, 1909, Sec. B, p. 9; "Spokane County Will Dedicate Building at Fair," Seattle Post Intelligencer, June 25, 1909, p. 1; "1,000 Coming from Spokane," Seattle Daily Times, June 23, 1909, p. 8; "Gala Spokane Day, A-Y-P," Spokesman-Review, June 21, 1909, p. 16; "Spokane Special to Carry Crowd," Ibid., June 23, 1909, p. 10; "Off for Seattle 'Tis Spokane Day," Ibid., June 25, 1909, p. 8; "Spokane Takes A-Y-P by Storm,"  Ibid.,  June 26, 1909; "Spokane A-Y-P Representatives,"  Ibid.,  June 29, 1909, p. 11; "Spokane Display Big Fair Feature,"  Ibid.,  July 22, 1909, p. 12; "Spokane Publicity Effort Recalled by Medallion Find,"  Ibid.,  July 6, 1954; Blanche Billings Mahlberg, "Spokane Day at the Alaska-Yukon,"  Ibid.,  September 16, 1962, p. 2, 3; Nancy Gale Compau, email to Laura Arksey, July 7, 2008, in possession of Laura Arksey, Spokane Washington.

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