Buildings & Architecture in Spokane

Spokane WA Architecture & Buildings

Spokane is the second largest city in Washington after Seattle. It lies along the Spokane River in the eastern part of the state. Both the city and the river were named after the Spokane or Spokan people, whose name means “children of the sun.”

While Canadians first established a trading post in the area in 1810, the city proper wasn’t founded until 1871. Most of the buildings in Spokane were built after the Great Fire of 1889 that destroyed the commercial district downtown. The architect Kirtland Kelsey Cutter (1860 – 1939) designed many of the new buildings, and had designed hundreds by 1920. Many of Cutter’s buildings followed the Romanesque Revival style.

The Davenport Hotel, now called the Historic Davenport Hotel, was one of Cutter’s designs, and it opened its doors in 1914. It was an example of Renaissance Revival and it incorporated technologies that were then considered cutting-edge like elevators, chilled water and air conditioning. Its current owners extensively renovated it in 2000. They have also followed the Davenport’s tradition of embracing new technology, for the Davenport has been retooled to be one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the area.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes began life as a church converted from a carpenter’s shop in 1881. The Church of St. Joseph, as it was then called, was the first Catholic church in Spokane. The congregation grew, and the present building was constructed from 1903 to 1913; it was then named the cathedral for the newly established Diocese of Spokane. The cathedral is an example of Romanesque Revival style; it has two spires and is constructed of red brick. It also boasts over 40 stained glass windows.

Warren C. Heylman (1923- ) is another architect who left his mark all over Spokane from the end of World War II to the present day. Most of his projects were constructed during the 1960s and 1970s, including the International Spokane Airport, which was completed in 1965. Heylman was a modernist and gave the airport a futuristic look with lots of open space. He designed it to be a rotunda with Concourse A and Concourse B. Over the past 50-odd years, the airport has been expanded and refurbished several times.

The Clemmer Theatre, also called the Bing Crosby Theatre, was built in 1915, and it was one of the first “movie palaces” built in the western United States, and it is one of the oldest still standing. Movie palaces were designed to look like opera houses and to make watching movies both more comfortable and less seemingly disreputable. The Clemmer Theatre was built in the Neoclassical style with an “atmosphere of richness”; it had 1600 lights, murals on the walls, a pipe organ and a ventilation system. After being restored in 1988, the Clemmer Theatre is now used for both movies and live acts.

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