Spokane Area History
|Spokane - An Indian word meaning "Children of the Sun" or "Sun People".
The history of Spokane probably started in 1810, with the building of the fur trading post at Spokane House (where the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers meet) under the direction of David Thompson, explorer for the Canadian's North West Trading Company. With accessibility to the Columbia River and thus the Pacific Ocean, it was the ideal trade center for the transport of furs in the region. In 1812, an American company (Pacific Fur Company) built a competitive post nearby, but the threat of war caused a short life for the Americans.
In 1821, the merger of North West Trading and the Hudson Bay Companies caused another shake up in the region. As Spokane House was considered too far from the Columbia, the Trading Post was dismantled and moved to Kettle Falls, named Fort Colville.
Spokane, as a town, started in about 1873, when James Glover arrived and was enchanted and overwhelmed by the Falls. He bought a 158 acre area for a reported $1600, and went to Portland to secure the documents. The original acreage is Spokane's business sector now (around Spokane Falls Blvd & Howard).
It was a grand city in the early years, with many lavish homes and even elegant hotels, like the California House. Unfortunately, most of the elegance was lost in the Great Fire of 1889, the same year the territory became a state. It didn't take long for the city to rebuild from the ashes, but this time with brick and mortar. A lot of the original building from post- 1889 are still standing and functional today.
Northern Pacific Railroad finally helped the progress of Spokane on July 4, 1881, when the first train came in from the West, arriving from Cheney with 6 cars loaded with passengers. But this was not without conflict, as Cheney was battling for County Seat, and actually won. But Spokane eventually had the final victory as seat, and Northern Pacific regional activity was centered in Spokane. The tracks were located on Railroad Avenue (between 1st & 2nd Ave.), but in later years, it was elevated, and RR Ave. disappeared. The first train from the east was in 1883, after the Golden Spike was driven in Helena, thus completing the line.
August 4th, 1889 was the day Spokane fell in tragedy. A fire broke out somewhere on Railroad Avenue (there are several inconclusive theories) and within 4 hours, 32 buildings on 27 blocks of Spokane were destroyed. Why, a pump station problem. There are several inconclusive theories here also, but needless to say, it looked gloomy for Spokane.
But Spokane had all the right stuff.....The breath-taking Falls and the closeproximity to the Couer d'Alene region gold, silver and lead mines (which encompassed the present day Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties and northern Idaho) and the railroads. When someone needed supplies, it was off to Spokane they went, from as far away as the Rockie Mountains in the east and the Canadian Selkirks to the north, the Blue Mountains to the south and the Cascades Mountains to the west. The money was always right, so the city was again growing strong. With this growth, some became millionaires seemingly overnight. There were show houses and auditorium theaters built. In fact A.M. Cannon and J.J. Brown built a theater with the World Largest stage. Spokane was the happening place and quickly became known for its shows.
With the help of the renowned architect K. K. Cutter many a fine home was built in Spokane, as many a fortune was being made in the mines and railroad. Some of the beauties still exist today and many are still operated as homes or family run establishments.
Spokane was also known for its Wild Side. As many as 51 saloons and dance halls went into business, and this increased the drunkenness and shooting. There were even "casinos" that were operating with permission from the city, by allowing a minister to give services on Sundays in one of the rooms of the casino (drinks were free afterwards to those that attended the service).
The city and surrounding areas have settled down quite a bit since those times, but the activities are still as great. With such noteworthy events as Bloomsday and Hoopfest (the world's largest 3-on-3 basketball tourneyment), Spokane is slowly shaking the roughneck name that it started with in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And more money is being invested in worthy forms of entertainment, like the American Music Festival at Riverfront Park (the fishing grounds for the Spokane tribe) every July 4th, and concerts at the new Veteran's Arena. Parks, recreational areas, trails, campgrounds and much more are all available to make this the "All American City," and the place to be.