Spokane's history is as rich and vibrant as the city itself. It's a history of Native Americans finding their way in an evolving culture, of European settlers living the rags to riches American dream, and new generations protecting the natural beauty that makes Spokane special. Much of Spokane's history can still be experienced today through visiting the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, tours of the city's many turn-of-the-century buildings and homes, or by attending one of the region's many cultural events. Here are a few highlights of the Spokane region's history that may spark some ideas as you are rounding out your meeting's details.
The Spokane Indians are of the Interior Salish group that has inhabited northeastern Washington, northern Idaho, and western Montana for centuries. The word Spokane is generally accepted as meaning 'Children of the Sun'. Their culture and traditions carry much wisdom and give an interesting perspective on mankind.
In 1881, the Northern Pacific Railway was completed, opening the door for European settlement. Many of the people who came to the area had heard of the area's rich natural resources and were seeking work in the timber or mining industry. The city of Spokane was officially incorporated on November 29, 1881. In the summer of 1889, Spokane's downtown commercial district was destroyed by fire. This seeming setback actually opened the way for the construction of many of the grand historic buildings that are still an integral part of Spokane's downtown today. In the ten years following the fire, Spokane's population nearly tripled, reaching 104,400 by 1910.
Early Inventors and Entrepreneurs
Many of the people who helped shape Spokane were nothing less than visionary. Here are some of the places they built that can still be enjoyed today.
The Eagle's Nest. Perched atop a 425' cliff, the Eagle's Nest was home to Royal Riblet, a tramway design engineer and inventor. For 32 years, the only way to reach the mansion was via an electric tramway operating on a 1,600-foot cable across the Spokane River. The home, which was built in 1924, features a swimming pool carved out of rock, a life-sized checkerboard, a stone pavilion, a croquet court and many beautiful gardens.
The Hutton Settlement
Built in 1919, the graceful design of the Hutton Settlement stands in stark contrast to the stereotypical orphanage. The indomitable spirit of two orphans, May Arkwright Hutton and her husband, Levi Hutton, culminated in the Hutton Settlement, a children's home designed to feed children's spirits in a homelike place surrounded by grace and beauty. Presenting the air of a country estate, the Hutton Settlement was the first development in the Spokane region to feature underground power cables and telephone lines. The Hutton's success in creating the Hutton Settlement provided significant motivation for the development of the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
In 1974, Spokane hosted the first ever environmentally themed World's Fair, Expo '74. The fair became a catalyst for reclaiming Spokane's Great Northern railroad yard, which had fallen into disrepair. Today, the fair site is downtown's beautiful 100-acre Riverfront Park and many of the structures built for the fair have become Spokane landmarks.