History of Spokane

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.

Native People

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. 

  • The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture has the largest collection of Northern Plateau Indian art and living history in the world.
  • During the summer there are a number of opportunities to attend Native American pow-wows around the Region.

European Settlement

Outside HouseIn 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.

  • Numerous walking and driving tours are available to view Spokane's many historic buildings and homes.
  • Take your group on a tour of one of the area's historic silver mines - Silver Valley is just over an hour's drive from Spokane.

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.

  • Wine And SunsetToday the Eagle's Nest and its grounds are home to Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, open daily from 12-5pm. Visitors are welcome, but must be at least 21.

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.

  • Tours may be taken of the Hutton Settlement with advance arrangements.

Expo '74

260 Days of SunshineIn 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.

  • The former United States Pavilion is now home for the IMAX theatre. The IMAX seats 385 people and features a 53 feet high by 69 feet wide screen. It maintains public hours of operation year round.
  • Alongside the IMAX, you'll find one of the best outdoor skating rinks in the nation; the Riverfront Park Ice Palace. Open from October through March, skate rentals and lessons are available.
  • CarrouselCreated in 1909 by Charles Looff, Spokane's famous carousel is a National Historical Landmark and frequently receives recognition as one of America's most beautiful and well preserved hand-carved wooden carousels. Open March through December.