Spokane, Washington

"Spokane" redirects here. For other uses, see Spokane (disambiguation).
Spokane, Washington
City of Spokane


Nickname(s): The Lilac City
Motto: Near Nature. Near Perfect.

Location of Spokane in
Spokane County and Washington
Spokane, Washington

Location in the United States

Coordinates: 47°39′32″N 117°25′30″W / 47.65889°N 117.42500°W / 47.65889; -117.42500Coordinates: 47°39′32″N 117°25′30″W / 47.65889°N 117.42500°W / 47.65889; -117.42500
Country United States
State Washington
County Spokane
Founded 1871
Incorporated November 29, 1881
  Type Mayor-Council
  Body Spokane City Council
  Mayor David Condon (Non-partisan)
  City 60.02 sq mi (155.45 km2)
  Land 59.25 sq mi (153.46 km2)
  Water 0.77 sq mi (1.99 km2)  1.28%
Elevation 1,843 ft (562 m)
Population (2010)[2] metro[3]
  City 208,916
  Estimate (2015)[4] 213,272
  Rank US: 101st
  Density 3,526.0/sq mi (1,361.4/km2)
  Urban 387,847 (US: 96th)
  Metro 547,924 (US: 100th)
  CSA 698,170 (US: 69th)
Demonym(s) Spokanite
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
  Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes

Area code(s) 509
Official Tree Pinus ponderosa
GNIS feature ID 1512683[6]
Website www.spokanecity.org

Spokane (pronunciation: i/spˈkæn/ spoh-KAN) is a city in the state of Washington, in the northwestern United States. It is the seat of Spokane County, as well as the center of the Spokane Metropolitan Area. It is located on the Spokane River west of the Rocky Mountain foothills in eastern Washington, 92 miles (148 km) south of the Canada–US border, approximately 20 miles (30 km) from the Washington–Idaho border, and 280 miles (450 km) east of Seattle along Interstate 90. The city and wider Inland Northwest region is served by Spokane International Airport, 5 miles (8 km) west of downtown Spokane. According to the 2010 Census, Spokane had a population of 208,916, making it the second largest city in Washington and the 102nd largest city in the United States.

The first humans to live in the area, the Spokane people (their name meaning "children of the sun" in Salishan), arrived between 13,000 and 8,000 years ago, living off plentiful game. Known as the birthplace of Father's Day, Spokane is officially nicknamed the "Lilac City". David Thompson explored the area with the westward expansion and establishment of the North West Company's Spokane House in 1810. This trading post was the first long-term European settlement in Washington. Completion of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1881 brought settlers to the Spokane area, and that same year it was officially incorporated as a city with the name of "Spokan Falls". In the late 19th century, gold and silver were discovered in the Inland Northwest. The local economy depended on mining, timber, and agriculture until the 1980s. Spokane hosted the first environmentally themed World's Fair at Expo '74.

Many of the older Romanesque Revival-style buildings in the downtown area were designed by architect Kirtland Kelsey Cutter after the Great Fire of 1889. The city also features Riverfront and Manito parks, the Smithsonian-affiliated Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, the Davenport Hotel, and the Fox and Bing Crosby theaters. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane, and the city is also the center of the Mormon Spokane Washington Temple District. The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist represents the Anglican community. Gonzaga University was established in 1887 by the Jesuits, and the private Presbyterian Whitworth University opened three years later in north Spokane. In sports, the Gonzaga Bulldogs collegiate basketball team competes at the Division I level. Professional and semi-professional sports teams include the Spokane Indians in Minor League Baseball, Spokane Empire in arena football, and Spokane Chiefs in junior ice hockey. As of 2010, Spokane's only major daily newspaper, The Spokesman-Review, has a daily circulation of over 76,000.


 Lithograph depicting the Spokane falls in 1888
Spokane Falls in 1888

The first humans to live in the Spokane area arrived between 13,000 and 8,000 years ago and were hunter-gatherer societies that lived off plentiful game.[7] The Spokane tribe, after which the city is named (the name meaning "children of the sun" or "sun people" in Salishan),[8][9][a] are believed to be either their direct descendants, or descendants of people from the Great Plains.[10] When asked by early white explorers, the Spokanes said their ancestors came from "up North".[7] Early in the 19th century, the Northwest Fur Company sent two white fur trappers west of the Rocky Mountains to search for fur.[11] These were the first white men met by the Spokanes, who believed they were sacred, and set the trappers up in the Colville River valley for the winter.[12]

Trading post

The explorer-geographer David Thompson, working as head of the North West Company's Columbia Department, became the first European to explore the Inland Empire (now called the Inland Northwest).[13] Crossing what is now the Canada–US border from British Columbia, Thompson wanted to expand the North West Company further south in search of furs. After establishing the Kullyspell House and Saleesh House trading posts in what are now Idaho and Montana, Thompson then attempted to expand further west. He sent out two trappers, Jacques Raphael Finlay and Finan McDonald, to construct a fur trading post on the Spokane River in Washington and trade with the local Indians.[14] This post was established in 1810, at the confluence of the Little Spokane and Spokane rivers, becoming the first enduring European settlement of significance in Washington state.[13] Known as the Spokane House, or simply "Spokane", it was in operation from 1810 to 1826.[8] Operations were run by the British North West Company and later the Hudson's Bay Company, and the post was the headquarters of the fur trade between the Rocky and Cascade mountains for 16 years. After the latter business absorbed the North West Company in 1821, the major operations at the Spokane House were eventually shifted north to Fort Colville, reducing the post's significance.[15]

Missionary Samuel Parker visited Spokane Falls in 1836
Reverend Samuel Parker, who visited the area in 1836

In 1836, Reverend Samuel Parker visited the area and reported that around 800 Native Americans were living in Spokane Falls.[16] A medical mission was established by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman to cater for Cayuse Indians and hikers of the Oregon Trail at Walla Walla in the south.[17] After the Whitmans were killed by Indians in 1847, Reverend Cushing Eells established Whitman College in their memory, also setting up the first church in Spokane.[17]

In 1853, two years after the establishment of the Washington Territory, the first governor, Isaac Stevens, made an initial effort to make a treaty with Chief Garry and the Spokanes at Antoine Plantes' Ferry, not far from Millwood.[18][19] After the last campaign of the Yakima Indian War, the Coeur d'Alene War of 1858 was brought to a close by the actions of Col. George Wright, who won decisive victories against a confederation of tribes in engagements at the battles of Four Lakes and Spokane Plains.[20] The cessation of hostilities opened the inter-mountain valley of the Pacific Northwest to safe habitation by settlers.[21][22]

American settlement

The city of Spokane Falls circa 1895
Spokane ca. 1895

Joint American–British occupation of Oregon Country, in effect since the Treaty of 1818, eventually led to the Oregon Boundary Dispute after a large influx of American settlers along the Oregon Trail. The first American settlers in what is now Spokane were J.J. Downing and S.R. Scranton, cattle ranchers who squatted and established a claim at Spokane Falls in 1871.[23] Together they built a small sawmill on a claim near the south bank of the falls.[23][24] James N. Glover and Jasper Matheney, Oregonians passing through the region in 1873, recognized the value of the Spokane River and its falls for the purpose of water power.[23] They realized the investment potential and bought the claims of 160 acres (65 ha) and the sawmill from Downing and Scranton for a total of $4,000.[25] Glover and Matheney knew that the Northern Pacific Railroad Company had received a government charter to build a main line across this northern route.[23] Amid many delays in construction and uncertainty over the completion of the railroad and its exact course, Matheney sold his interest in the claim to Glover.[26][b] Glover confidently held on to his claim and became a successful Spokane business owner and the city's second mayor.[27] He later came to be known as the "Father of Spokane".[28]

In 1880, Fort Spokane was established by U.S. Army troops under Lt. Col. Henry Clay Merriam 56 miles (90 km) northwest of Spokane, at the junction of the Columbia and Spokane Rivers, to protect the construction of the Northern Pacific Railway and secure a place for U.S. settlement.[29] By June 30, 1881, the railway reached the city, bringing major European settlement to the area.[30][31] The city of Spokan Falls (the "e" was added in 1883 and "Falls" dropped in 1891) was officially incorporated as a city of about 1,000 residents on November 29, 1881.[32][33][c] When Spokane was officially incorporated in 1881 Robert W. Forrest was elected as the first mayor of the city, with a Council of seven-S.G. Havermale, A.M. Cannon, Dr. L.H.Whitehouse, L.W. Rima, F.R. Moore, George A. Davis, and W.C. Gray, all serving without pay.[32] The marketing campaigns of transportation companies with affordable fertile land to sell along their trade routes lured many settlers into the region they dubbed "Spokane Country".[34][35]

The Spokane River Bridge at Fort Spokane near Miles, WA
The Spokane River Bridge at Fort Spokane

The 1883 discovery of gold, silver, and lead in the Coeur d'Alene region of northern Idaho lured prospectors.[36] The Inland Empire erupted with numerous mining rushes from 1883 to 1892.[37] Mining and smelting emerged as a major stimulus to Spokane. At the onset of the initial 1883 gold rush in the nearby Coeur d'Alene mining district, Spokane became popular with prospectors, offering low prices on everything "from a horse to a frying pan".[38] It would keep this status for subsequent rushes in the region due to its trade center status and accessibility to railroad infrastructure.[39][d]

Spokane's growth continued unabated until August 4, 1889, when a fire, now known as The Great Fire (not to be confused with the Great Fire of 1910, which happened nearby), began just after 6:00 p.m. and destroyed the city's downtown commercial district.[40] Due to technical problems with a pump station, there was no water pressure in the city when the fire started.[41] In a desperate bid to starve the fire, firefighters began razing buildings with dynamite. Eventually the winds and the fire died down; 32 blocks of Spokane's downtown core had been destroyed and one person killed.[40]

Spokane Falls in 1890
Spokane Falls, 1890

Despite this catastrophe, and in part because of it, Spokane experienced a building boom.[42][e] The downtown was rebuilt, and the city was reincorporated under the present name of "Spokane" in 1891.[33] According to historian David H. Stratton, "From the late 1890s to about 1912, a great flurry of construction created a modern urban profile of office buildings, banks, department stores, hotels and other commercial institutions" which stretched from the Spokane River to the site of the Northern Pacific railroad tracks below the South Hill.[43] Yet the rebuilding and development of the city was far from smooth: between 1889 and 1896 alone, all six bridges over the Spokane River were destroyed by floods before their completion.[43] In the 1890s the city was subject to intrastate migration by African-Americans from Roslyn, looking for work after the closure of the area's mines. Two African-American churches, Calvary Baptist and Bethel African Methodist Episcopal, were founded in 1890.[44] Just three years after the fire, in 1892, James J. Hill's Great Northern Railway arrived in the chosen site for Hill's rail yards, the newly created township of Hillyard (annexed by Spokane in 1924).[45] Spokane became an important rail shipping and transportation hub for the Inland Empire, connecting mines in the Silver Valley with agricultural areas around the Palouse region.[35][46] The city's population ballooned to 19,922 in 1890, and to 36,848 in 1900 with the arrival of additional railroads.[42] By 1910 the population had hit 104,000, and Spokane eclipsed Walla Walla as the commercial center of the Inland Empire.[47] In time the city came to be known as the "capital" of the Inland Empire and the heart of a vast tributary region.[36][48] After the arrival of the Northern Pacific, Union Pacific, Great Northern, and Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific railroads, Spokane became one of the most important rail centers in the western U.S.[42][48][49][50]

Early 20th century

Expansion abruptly stopped in the 1910s and was followed by a period of population decline,[51] due in large part to Spokane's slowing economy. Control of regional mines and resources became increasingly dominated by national corporations rather than local people and organizations, diverting capital outside of Spokane and decreasing growth and investment opportunities in the city.[51] During this time of stagnation, unrest was prevalent among the area's unemployed, who became victimized by "job sharks", who charged a fee for signing up workers in the logging camps. Job sharks and employment agencies were known to cheat itinerant workers, sometimes paying bribes to periodically fire entire work crews, thus generating repetitive fees for themselves.[52] Crime spiked in the 1890s and 1900s,[53][54] with eruptions of violent activity involving unions such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or "Wobblies" as they were often known, whose free speech fights had begun to garner national attention.[55] Now, with grievances concerning the unethical practices of the employment agencies, they initiated a free speech fight in September 1908 by purposely breaking a city ordinance on soapboxing.[55] With IWW encouragement, union members from many western states came to Spokane to take part in what had become a publicity stunt. Many Wobblies were incarcerated, including feminist labor leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who published her account in the local Industrial Worker.[55]

Spokane's Masonic Temple, built in 1905
The Masonic Temple built in 1905

After mining declined at the turn of the 20th century, agriculture and logging became the primary influences in the Spokane economy.[56] The population explosion and the building of homes, railroads, and mines in northern Idaho and southern British Columbia fueled the industry.[56] Although overshadowed in importance by the vast timbered areas on the coastal regions west of the Cascades, and burdened with monopolistic rail freight rates and stiff competition, Spokane became a noted leader in the manufacture of doors, window sashes, blinds, and other planing mill products.[57] Rail freight rates were much higher in Spokane than the rates in coastal seaport cities such as Seattle and Portland, so much so that Minneapolis merchants could ship goods first to Seattle and then back to Spokane for less than shipping directly to Spokane, even though the rail line ran through Spokane on the way to the coast.[48][58][f] Local morale was affected for years by the collapse of the Division Street Bridge early in the morning on December 15, 1915, which killed five people and injured over 20, but a new bridge was built (eventually replaced in 1994).[59] The 1920 census showed a net increase of just 35 individuals, which actually indicates that thousands left the city when considering the natural growth rate of a population.[51] Growth in the 1920s and 1930s remained slow but less drastically so, forcing city boosters to market the city as a quiet, comfortable place suitable for raising a family rather than a dynamic community full of opportunity.[60] The Inland Empire was heavily dependent on natural resources and extractive goods produced from mines, forests, and farms, which experienced a fall in demand.[61] The situation improved slightly with the start of World War II as aluminum production commenced in Spokane due to the area's cheap electricity (produced from regional dams) and the increased demand for airplanes.[61]

Second half of the 20th century

The Great Northern Railway clock tower and Expo '74 U.S. Pavilion in Riverfront Park
The Great Northern clock tower and U.S. Pavilion in Riverfront Park

After decades of stagnation and slow growth, Spokane businessmen formed Spokane Unlimited in the early 1960s, an organization that sought to revitalize downtown Spokane.[62] A recreation park showcasing the Spokane Falls was the preferred option, and after successful negotiation to relocate the railroad facilities on Havermale Island,[63] Spokane hosted the first environmentally themed World's Fair in Expo '74 on May 4, becoming the smallest city at the time to host a World's Fair.[64][65] This event transformed Spokane's downtown, removing a century of railroad infrastructure and reinventing the urban core. After Expo '74, the fairgrounds became the 100-acre (40 ha) Riverfront Park.[66]

The growth witnessed in the late 1970s and early 1980s was interrupted by another U.S. recession in 1981, in which silver, timber, and farm prices dropped.[67] The period of decline for the city lasted into the 1990s and was also marked by a loss of many steady family-wage jobs in the manufacturing sector.[68] Although this was a tough period, Spokane's economy had started to benefit from some measure of economic diversification; growing companies such as Key Tronic and other research, marketing, and assembly plants for technology companies helped lessen Spokane's dependence on natural resources.[67]

21st century

Spokane's skywalk network is among the nation's most extensive
Spokane has an extensive Skywalk network

As of 2014, Spokane is still trying to make the transition to a more service-oriented economy in the face of a less prominent manufacturing sector.[68] Developing the city's strength in the medical and health sciences fields has seen some success, resulting in the expansion of the University District with two medical school branches.[69][70] The city faces challenges such as a scarcity of high-paying jobs, pockets of poverty, and areas of high crime.[68]

The opening of the River Park Square Mall in 1999 sparked a downtown rebirth that included the building of the Spokane Arena and expansion of the Spokane Convention Center.[68][71] Other major projects include the building of the Big Easy concert house (now the Knitting Factory) and renovation of the historic Montvale Hotel, the Kirtland Cutter-designed Davenport Hotel (after being vacant for over 20 years), the Fox Theater (now home to the Spokane Symphony)[72][73] as well as the completion of the WSU Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences Building in 2013 and the Davenport Grand Hotel in 2015 and the ongoing renovation of Riverfront Park (as of October 2016).[74][75][76] The Kendall Yards development on the west side of downtown Spokane is one of the largest construction projects in the city's history. Directly across the Spokane River from downtown, it will blend residential and retail space with plazas and walking trails.[68]



Night aerial view of Kootenai County, Idaho (foreground) and Spokane County (background) in December 2014

Spokane is located on the Spokane River in eastern Washington at an elevation of 1,843 feet (562 m) above sea level,[77] about 20 miles (32 km) from Idaho, 110 miles (180 km) south of the Canada–US border, 232 miles (373 km) due east of Seattle, and 277 miles (446 km) southwest of Calgary.[78] The lowest elevation in the city of Spokane is the northernmost point of the Spokane River within city limits (in Riverside State Park) at 1,608 feet (490 m); the highest elevation is on the northeast side, near the community of Hillyard (though closer to Beacon Hill and the North Hill Reservoir) at 2,591 feet (790 m).[79] Spokane is part of the Inland Northwest region, consisting of eastern Washington, northern Idaho, northwestern Montana, and northeastern Oregon.[80] According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 60.02 square miles (155.45 km2), of which 59.25 square miles (153.46 km2) is land and 0.77 square miles (1.99 km2) is water.[1]

The Spokane River rushes passed Canada Island in Riverfront Park
The Upper Spokane Falls of the Spokane River flowing by Canada Island

Spokane lies in the Columbia Plateau ecoregion on the eastern edge of the basaltic Channeled Scablands steppe, a plain that then eventually rises sharply to the east towards the rugged, timbered Rocky Mountain foothills, the Selkirk Mountains.[81] It is in a transition area between the barren landscape of the Columbia Basin and the coniferous forests to the east; to the south are the lush prairies and rolling hills of the Palouse.[82] The highest peak in Spokane County is Mount Spokane, at an elevation of 5,883 feet (1,793 m), located on the eastern side of the Selkirk Mountains.[83] The most prominent water feature in the area is the Spokane River, a 111-mile (179 km) tributary of the Columbia River, originating from Lake Coeur d'Alene in northern Idaho.[84] The river flows west across the Washington state line through downtown Spokane, meeting Latah Creek, then turns to the northwest, where it is joined by the Little Spokane River on its way to the Columbia River, north of Davenport.[84] The Channeled Scablands and many of the area's numerous large lakes, such as Lake Coeur d'Alene and Lake Pend Oreille, were formed by the Missoula Floods after the ice-dammed Glacial Lake Missoula ruptured at the end of the last ice age.[85] The Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney is the closest natural reserve, the closest National Forest is the Colville National Forest, the closest National Recreation Area is the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and the closest national park is Mount Rainier National Park, approximately a four-and-a-half hour drive away from Spokane.

Flora and fauna

Spokane is within the Columbia Plateau ecoregion, which supports an abundance of wildlife due its unique and complex geology and natural history. The area plains were once carpeted with shrubs, forbs, and bunchgrass which provided sustenance for the areas herbivores to browse and graze.[86] Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir can be found in the more mountainous areas throughout the region. The ponderosa pine is the official tree of the City of Spokane, which is where specimens were first collected by botanist David Douglas in 1826.[87][88][g]

The Columbia Plateau ecoregion supports 82 mammals, 27 reptiles and amphibians, 192 birds, and 73 fish species.[89] Migratory wetland birds and waterfowl traveling along the Pacific Flyway frequent the region due to refuges with water, food and shelter from numerous lakes and grain fields.[89] There is a high concentration of raptors in the ecoregion,[89] bald eagles are a common sight near Coeur d'Alene in December and January when kokanee spawn.[90] The most common fish present in area lakes is the Washington-native rainbow trout, which is the official fish of Washington state.[91] Big game common in eastern Washington include black and grizzly bears, caribou, elk, bighorn sheep, and cougar.[92] Significant populations of whitetail deer and moose can also be found. The gray wolf population has been making a recovery in the Inland Northwest. As of June 2016, there are 16 wolf packs in eastern Washington.[93] In August 2016, photo evidence confirmed a solitary wolf in Mount Spokane State Park.[94]

Conservation challenges include the extensive grain and legume farming as well as invasive cheatgrass which have reduced the natural range of the regions native plant species to only one percent as well as the many hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River watershed which negatively impacts the safe passage and habitat of salmon, sturgeon, and lamprey.[95]

The Abraham Lincoln statue on a sunny, clear day
The Lincoln statue on a clear day


Spokane has a humid continental climate (Dsb under the Köppen classification),[96] a rare climate due to its elevation and significant winter precipitation; Spokane, however, is adjacent to and sometimes even classified as a warm-summer Mediterranean climate (Csb) because the average temperature for the coldest month is just over 27 °F (−3 °C).[97][98]

The area typically has a hot, arid climate during the summer months,[81] bracketed by short spring and fall seasons. On average, July and August are equally warm, and the coolest month is December; July averages 69.5 °F (20.8 °C) while December averages 27.5 °F (−2.5 °C).[98][h] Daily temperature ranges are large during the summer, often exceeding 30 °F (17 °C), and small during the winter, with a range just above 10 °F (5.6 °C). The record high and low are 108 °F (42 °C) and −30 °F (−34 °C), but temperatures of more than 100 °F (38 °C) or less than −10 °F (−23 °C) are rare.[81] Temperatures above 90 °F (32 °C) occur an average of 19 days annually, temperatures above 100 °F (38 °C) occur an average of only 1 day annually, and those below 0 °F (−18 °C) average 3.5 days a year.[99]

Spokane's location, between the Cascades Range to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east and north, protects it from weather patterns experienced in other parts of the Pacific Northwest. The Cascade Mountains form a barrier to the eastward flow of moist and relatively mild air from the Pacific Ocean in winter and cool air in summer.[100] As a result of the rain shadow effect of the Cascades, the Spokane area has 16.5 inches (420 mm) average annual precipitation, less than half of Seattle's 37 inches (940 mm).[100] The most precipitation occurs in December, and summer is the driest time of the year.[98] The Rockies shield Spokane from some of the winter season's coldest air masses traveling southward across Canada.[100]

Administration and politics

The Art Deco City Hall building
Spokane City Hall

The City of Spokane operates under a mayor–council form of government, with executive and legislative branches.[105] In 2011, David Condon was elected mayor as a non-partisan candidate, taking office on the last business day of the year.[106] The previous mayor was Mary Verner, who succeeded the recalled James "Jim" West. The city elected James Everett Chase as its first African-American mayor in 1981, and after his retirement, elected the city's first woman mayor, Vicki McNeil.[107] Spokane is the county seat of Spokane County, a position it wrested from Cheney in 1886.[108][109]

Democrat Jay Inslee was elected governor of the state of Washington in 2012.[110] Federally, Spokane is part of Washington's 5th congressional district, and has been represented by Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers since 2004.[111] Washington State is represented nationally in the Senate by Democrat Patty Murray and Democrat Maria Cantwell.[111] In the 2012 general election, Spokane County favored Mitt Romney for President over Barack Obama by 51.5 to 45.7 percent; on the state ballot, the county supported the legalization of recreational marijuana ballot measure by 52.2 to 47.9 percent and opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage by 44.1 to 55.9 percent.[112] Spokane native Tom Foley was a Democratic Speaker of the House and served as a representative of Washington's 5th district for 30 years, enjoying large support from Spokane, until his narrow defeat in the "Republican Revolution" of 1994,[113][114] the only time U.S. voters have turned out a sitting Speaker of the House since 1860.[115]


Crime rates (2012)
Crime type Rate*
Aggravated assault:347.8
Total violent crime:628.1
Motor vehicle theft:987.4
Total property crime:8730.1
* Number of reported crimes per 100,000 population.
2012 population: 212,163
Source: 2012 FBI UCR Data

The crime rate per 1,000 people in the Spokane metropolitan area (Spokane County) was 64.8 in 2012, higher than the Washington state average of 38.3; the violent crime rate of 3.8 and property crime rate of 61 also exceed the statewide averages of 2.5 and 35.8, respectively.[116] Spokane's crime rate is also higher for both violent and property crime than in 98% of communities in the U.S.[117]

The Spokane County Courthouse in the West Central neighborhood
Spokane County Courthouse

Data shows that most crimes reported in the city tend to be focused around the downtown city center and its environs.[117] Half of all property crimes are localized in about 6.5 percent of the city.[118] An individual in Spokane has a one in fourteen chance of becoming a victim of burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, or arson.[117] Spokane had the fourth highest rate of auto theft in the U.S. in 2010 and 2011 according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.[118] Drive-by shootings and drug use, particularly crack cocaine use, became worse in the early 1990s, and four drive-by shootings were recorded in December 1993 alone.[119] In the 1990s, a special gang unit within the Spokane Police Department was established, with an officer "collecting intelligence on gang activity and disseminating it to street officers".[119] The 1990s also saw Spokane's most prolific serial killer, Robert Lee Yates, who killed thirteen prostitutes in Spokane's East Sprague red light district and confessed to two others in Tacoma, Washington.[120] The transition of the Spokane Police Department to a community-policing precinct model has been successful in curbing crime rates since its introduction downtown, and has been expanded citywide.[121] The crime woes are possibly due in part to an imbalance that Spokane County prisons receive of pre-release and work-release prisoners; An investigation by the Tacoma News Tribune found that while Spokane County accounts for 6.21 percent of the inmates in state prisons, it receives a disproportionate 16.73 percent of the inmate population to be released into the general population.[122]

Spokane and the Spokane Police Department (SPD) have received national publicity and scrutiny in the 2000s and 2010s due to many officer-involved shootings and allegations of excessive force. The most high-profile of these incidents was the 2006 death of Otto Zehm, a mentally challenged man who was initially suspected of theft at a convenience store.[123] Zehm was later found to have committed no crime, but was struck with batons by several officers and tasered.[124] The increased pressure on the SPD prompted an independent review by a commission of the organization's use-of-force policies, an internal culture audit, and the purchase of body cameras.[125]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 2015213,272[126]2.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[128]
2015 Estimate[4]

According to the American Community Survey, the median income for a household in Spokane in 2012 was $42,274, and the median income for a family was $50,268. Males had a median income of $42,693 and females had a median income of $34,795. The per capita income for the city was $24,034. About 13.3% of families and 18.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.8% of those under the age of 18 and 10.8% of those aged 65 and older.[2]

At the 2010 census, there were 208,916 people, 87,271 households, and 49,204 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,526.0 inhabitants per square mile (1,361.4/km2). There were 94,291 housing units at an average density of 1,591.4 per square mile (614.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 84.00% White, 5.00% Hispanics and Latinos, 3.80% biracial, 2.50% Asian, 2.20% African American, 1.80% Native American, 0.60% Pacific Islander and 0.10% from other races.[2]

There were 87,271 households, of which 28.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.5% were married couples living together, 12.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 43.6% were non-families. In 2010, 34.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.97.[2]

The median age in the city was 35 years. In Spokane, 22.4% of residents were under the age of 18, 12.3% were between the ages of 18 and 24, 27.6% were from 25 to 44, 25.1% were from 45 to 64, and 12.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.8% male and 51.2% female.[2]

According to the Association of Religion Data Archives' 2010 Metro Area Membership Report, the denominational affiliations of the Spokane MSA are 64,277 Evangelical Protestant, 682 Black Protestant, 24,826 Mainline Protestant, 754 Orthodox, 66,202 Catholic, 31,674 Other, and 339,338 Unclaimed.[129] As of 2014, there are also at least three Jewish congregations.[130] The Emanu-El congregation erected the first synagogue in Spokane and the state of Washington on September 14, 1892.[131] The city's first mosque opened in 2009 as the Spokane Islamic Center.[132] Spokane, like Washington and the Pacific Northwest region as a whole, is part of the Unchurched Belt, a region characterized by low church membership rates and religious participation.[133] The city serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane, which was established in 1913,[134] and the Mormon Spokane Washington Temple District.[135]

Spokane has been criticized and sometimes derided for its lack of diversity and multicultural offerings,[136][137] but the city has become more diverse in recent decades. People from countries in the former Soviet Union (especially Russians and Ukrainians) form a comparatively large demographic in Spokane and Spokane County, the result of a large influx of immigrants and their families after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.[138][139] According to the 2000 Census, the number of people of Russian or Ukrainian ancestry in Spokane County was reported to be 7,700 (4,900 residing in the city of Spokane), amounting to two percent of the county.[139] Among the fastest-growing demographics in Spokane is the Pacific Islander ethnic group, which is estimated to be the third largest minority group in the county, after the Russian and Ukrainian community and Latinos.[140] Spokane was once home to a sizable Asian community, mostly Japanese, centered in a district called Chinatown from the early days of the city until 1974.[141][142] As in many western railway towns, the Asian community started off as an encampment for migrant laborers working on the railroads. The Chinatown Asian community thrived until the 1940s, after which its population decreased and became integrated and dispersed, losing its Asian character; urban blight and the preparations leading up to Expo '74 led to Chinatown's eventual demolition.[141]

Spokane and its metro area in general, particularly northern Idaho has been stigmatized in the popular consciousness by a number of hate groups that have been set up in and around Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in the past.[143][144] Low ethnic diversity made the region a destination for some seeking to escape more cosmopolitan cities for a locale with a relatively homogenous, white population. This trend increased with the arrival of retired engineer Richard Butler from California who traveled to Hayden, Idaho in 1974 to eventually establish a white supremacist church called the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, better known by its political arm, the Aryan Nations.[143] Aryan Nations recruits and associates were responsible for several hate crimes and terror plots during the mid 1980s and 1990s. The group went defunct in 2000 when the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a civil suit which resulted in a $6.3 million settlement, which led to the eventual bankruptcy and closure of their Hayden compound.[143] Another significant act of hate was the attempted bombing of Spokane's Martin Luther King Day Parade by Kevin Harpham of Addy, Washington in 2011. The Southern Poverty Law Center currently lists three hate groups in the Spokane and Coeur d'Alene metro areas, in the categories of "radical traditional Catholicism", Holocaust denial, and general hate.[145]

Metropolitan area

The Spokane skyline at night from the southwest in Palisades Park
Spokane skyline at night from the southwest

The Spokane metropolitan area consists of Spokane, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties. As of the 2013 census estimates, the Spokane metropolitan area had a population of 535,724.[146] Directly east of Spokane County is the Coeur d'Alene Metropolitan Statistical Area, which consists of Kootenai County, Idaho, anchored by the city of Coeur d'Alene. The urban areas of the two MSAs largely follow the path of Interstate 90 between Spokane and Coeur d'Alene. The Spokane area has suffered from suburbanization and urban sprawl in past decades, despite Washington's use of urban growth boundaries; the city ranks low among major Northwest cities in population density and smart growth.[147] The Spokane and Coeur d'Alene Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) are now included in a single Combined Statistical Area (CSA) by the Office of Management and Budget.[148] The Spokane–Coeur d'Alene CSA had around 698,170 residents in 2015.[148]


The Peyton Building in Spokane's Central Business District
The Spokane Stock Exchange once occupied the Peyton Building

Spokane became an important rail and shipping center because of its location between mining and farming areas.[35][46] In the early 1880s, gold and silver were discovered in the Inland Empire; as a regional shipping center, the city furnished supplies to the miners who passed through on their way to the mineral-rich Coeur d'Alene, Colville and Kootenay districts.[36] The mining districts are still considered among the most productive in North America.[149]

Natural resources have historically been the foundation of Spokane's economy, with the mining, logging, and agriculture industries providing much of the region's economic activity. After mining declined at the turn of the 20th century, agriculture and logging replaced mining as the primary influences in the economy.[56] Lumberjacks and millmen working in the hundreds of mills along the railroads, rivers, and lakes of northern Washington and Idaho were provisioning themselves in Spokane.[150] Agriculture has always been an important sector in the local economy; the surrounding area, especially to the south, is the Palouse,[151][152] a productive agricultural region that supports many vineyards and microbreweries as well.[153] By the early 20th century Spokane was primarily a commercial center rather than an industrial center.[154]

In Spokane, wood and food processing, printing and publishing, primary metal refining and fabrication, electrical and computer equipment, and transportation equipment are leaders in the manufacturing sector.[155] Gold mining company Gold Reserve, and Fortune 1000 company Potlatch Corporation  a forest products company that operates as a real estate investment trust  are headquartered in the city proper.[156][157] Mining, forestry, and agribusiness remain important to the local and regional economy, but Spokane's economy has diversified to include other industries, including the high-tech and biotech sectors.[67] Spokane is becoming a more service-oriented economy in the face of a less prominent manufacturing sector which declined in the 1980s, particularly as a medical and biotechnology center;[68] Fortune 1000 technology company Itron, for instance, is headquartered in the area.[158] Avista Corporation, the holding company of Avista Utilities, is the only company in Spokane that has been listed in the Fortune 500, ranked 299 on the list in 2002.[159] Other companies with head offices in the Spokane area include technology company Key Tronic, hotelier Red Lion Hotels Corporation, and microcar maker Commuter Cars.[160][161] Despite diversification to new industries, Spokane's economy has struggled in recent decades. Spokane was ranked the #1 "Worst City For Jobs" in America in both 2012[162] and 2015,[163] while also ranking #4 in 2014.[164] Additionally, Forbes named Spokane the "Scam Capital of America" in 2009[165] due to widespread business fraud. Trends of fraud were noted as far back as 1988,[166] again in 2002,[167] and continuing through 2011.[166]

As of 2013, the top five employers in Spokane are the State of Washington, Spokane Public Schools, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children's Hospital, the 92d Air Refueling Wing, and Spokane County.[168] The largest military facility and employer, the 92d Air Refueling Wing, is stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base near Airway Heights. The leading industries in Spokane for the employed population 16 years and older were educational services, health care, and social assistance (26.5 percent), retail trade (12.7 percent), and arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation food services (10.4 percent).[2] As the metropolitan center of the Inland Northwest, as well as parts of southern British Columbia and Alberta, Spokane serves as a commercial, manufacturing, transportation, medical, shopping, and entertainment hub.[155][169] In 2010, the Spokane–Spokane Valley MSA had a gross metropolitan product of $19.48 billion.[170]

As of 2014, economic development in the Spokane area primarily focuses on promoting the following industries: manufacturing (especially aerospace manufacturing), health sciences, professional services, information science and technology, finance and insurance as well as clean technology, and digital media.[171][172] To aid economic development, the eastern branch of Innovate Washington, a state-supported business incubator was placed in the city.[173]


Panorama of Downtown Spokane looking north from the Deaconess Medical Center parking garage.
Panorama of Downtown Spokane looking north from Cliff Drive.


The American Legion Building in Spokane's Riverside neighborhood
The Legion Building in Riverside

Spokane's neighborhoods range from the Victorian-style South Hill and Browne's Addition, to the Davenport District of Downtown, to the more contemporary neighborhoods of North Spokane. Spokane's neighborhoods are gaining attention for their history, as illustrated by the city being home to 18 recognized National Register Historical Districts.[65][174][175]

Some of Spokane's salient neighborhoods are Riverside, Browne's Addition, and Hillyard. The Riverside neighborhood consists primarily of downtown Spokane and is the central business district of Spokane. The neighborhoods south of downtown Spokane are generally known as the South Hill. Downtown Spokane contains many of the city's public facilities, including City Hall, Riverfront Park (site of Expo '74), and the Spokane Convention Center and INB Performing Arts Center, as well as the Spokane Arena and Spokane County Courthouse across the river in the historic West Central neighborhood. The Monroe Street Bridge, a city icon, connects the two areas. To the east of downtown is East Central and the adjacent University District and International District. To the west of downtown is one of Spokane's oldest and densest neighborhoods, Browne's Addition.

The Patsy Clark Mansion in Browne's Addition
Patsy Clark Mansion in Browne's Addition

A National Historic District west of Downtown, Browne's Addition was Spokane's first prestigious address, notable for its array of old mansions built by Spokane's early elite in the Queen Anne and early American Craftsman styles.[175][176] The area houses the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. In northeast Spokane, the Hillyard neighborhood began in 1892 as the chosen site for James J. Hill's Great Northern Railway yard, placed outside Spokane city limits to avoid "burdensome taxes."[45] The downtown Hillyard Business District, located on Market Street, was the first Spokane neighborhood listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[45] Many of the former town's houses were built to house railroad workers, mainly immigrant laborers working in the local yard, who gave Hillyard an independent, blue-collar character.[45] Hillyard has become a home for much of Spokane's growing Russian, Ukrainian, and Southeast Asian communities.[45][138][140]


Commercial and public buildings

The Romanesque Revival style Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Downtown Spokane
The Romanesque Revival style Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes

Spokane neighborhoods contain a patchwork of architectural styles that give them a distinct identity and illustrate the changes throughout the city's history.[177] Most of Spokane's notable buildings and landmarks are in the Riverside neighborhood and the downtown commercial district, where many of the buildings were rebuilt following the Great Fire of 1889 in the Romanesque Revival style.[40] Examples include the Great Northern clock tower, Review Building, Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, First Congregational Church, Washington Water Power Post Street substation, Peyton Building, and The Carlyle.[178] The principal architect of many buildings of this period was Kirtland Kelsey Cutter.[68] Self-taught, he came to Spokane in 1886 and began by designing "Chalet Hohenstein" for himself and other residences for his family while also working as a bank teller.[179] Other structures designed by Cutter include the Spokane Club, Washington Water Power Substation, Monroe Street Bridge (featured in the city seal), Central Steam Plant, and the Davenport Hotel. Built in renaissance and Spanish Revival style, the Davenport Hotel cost two million dollars to complete, and included new technologies at the time of its opening in September 1914, such as chilled water, elevators, and air cooling.[72] In contemporary times, one of the foremost and influential architects in the city has been Warren C. Heylman, who helped give the city a great breadth of mid-century architecture. Heylman's career was most prolific during the 1960s and 1970s where his main body of work was done in the modernist style, designing numerous residential houses, apartment buildings, and architectural embellishments.[180] Some of his most noteworthy works in Spokane include The Parkade, Spokane International Airport, Spokane Regional Health Building, and the Burlington Northern Latah Creek Bridge over Hangman Valley.[180]

Kirtland Cutter's Renaissance Revival style Davenport Hotel, widely considered his magnus opus
The Renaissance Revival style Davenport Hotel designed by Kirtland Cutter

Other well-represented architectural styles downtown include Art Deco (Spokane City Hall, Paulsen Center, Fox Theater, City Ramp Garage), Renaissance Revival (Steam Plant Square, Thomas S. Foley Courthouse, San Marco), Neoclassical (Masonic Center, Hutton Building, Bing Crosby Theater), Chicago School (U.S. Bank Building, Liberty Building, Old City Hall) and Modernist (The Parkade, Ridpath Hotel, Bank of America Financial Center).[178] The tallest building in the city, at 288 feet (88 m), is the Bank of America Financial Center.[178] Also of note is the Spokane County Courthouse in West Central (the building on the seal of Spokane County), the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Rockwood, the Benewah Milk Bottles in Riverside and Garland, Mount Saint Michael in Hillyard, and the Cambern Dutch Shop Windmill in South Perry.


The Kirtland Cutter designed James N. Glover House
The James N. Glover residence

As an early affluent Spokane neighborhood, the Browne's Addition neighborhood and residences contain the largest variety of residential architecture in the city.[176] These residences are lavish and personalized, featuring many architecture styles that were popular and trendy in the Pacific Northwest from the late 19th century to 1930, such as the Victorian and Queen Anne styles.[181] In high demand following his firms' design of the Idaho Building at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, Cutter found work constructing many mansions for mining and railroad tycoons such as Patrick "Patsy" Clark and Daniel and Austin Corbin.[182]

The older neighborhoods of the early 20th century, such as West Central, East Central, Logan, Hillyard, and much of the lower South Hill, feature a large concentration of American Craftsman style bungalows. In Hillyard, the most architecturally intact neighborhood in Spokane, 85 percent of these buildings are historic.[183] As the city expanded mainly to the north in the middle of the 20th century, the bungalows in the "minimal traditional" style commonplace from the 1930s to the 1950s tend to predominate in the Northwest, North Hill, and Bemiss neighborhoods. This architectural style occupies the neighborhoods where the integrity of Spokane's street grid pattern is largely intact (especially the areas north of downtown and south of Francis Ave.), and the houses have backyard alleys for carports, deliveries, and refuse collection. Contemporary suburbs and architecture are prevalent at the north and south edges of Spokane as well as in the new Kendall Yards neighborhood north of downtown.[184]

Parks and recreation

The European Duncan Garden in Manito Park and Botanical Gardens
Duncan Garden at Manito Park

In 1907, Spokane's board of park commissioners retained the services of the Olmsted Brothers to draw up a plan for Spokane's parks.[185] Much of Spokane's park land was acquired by the city prior to World War I, establishing it early on as a leader among Western cities in the development of a citywide park system.[186][187] Spokane has a system of over 87 parks totaling 4,100 acres (17 km2) and includes six neighborhood aquatic centers.[188][189] Some of the most notable parks in Spokane's system are Riverfront Park, Manito Park and Botanical Gardens, Riverside State Park, Mount Spokane State Park, Saint Michael's Mission State Park, John A. Finch Arboretum, and the Dishman Hills Conservation Area.

Riverfront Park, created after Expo '74 and occupying the same site, is 100 acres (40 ha) in downtown Spokane and the site of some of Spokane's largest events.[190] The park has views of the Spokane Falls and holds a number of civic attractions, including a skyride, a rebuilt gondola lift that carries visitors across the falls from high above the river gorge.[190] The park also includes the historic hand-carved Riverfront Park Looff carousel created in 1909 by Charles I. D. Looff.[190] Riverfront Park is currently being renovated and modernized (as of October 2016).[76] Manito Park and Botanical Gardens on Spokane's South Hill features the Duncan Gardens, a classical European Renaissance-style garden and the Nishinomiya Japanese Garden designed by Nagao Sakurai. Riverside State Park, close to downtown, is a site for outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and horseriding.[191]

The Spokane area has many trails and rail trails, the most notable of which is the Spokane River Centennial Trail, which features over 37.5 miles (60.4 km) of paved trails running along the Spokane River from Spokane to the Idaho border.[192] This trail continues on towards Coeur d'Alene for 24 miles (39 km) as the North Idaho Centennial Trail and is often used for alternative transportation and recreational use. In the summer, it has long been popular to visit North Idaho's "Lake Country", such as Lake Coeur d'Alene, Lake Pend Oreille, Priest Lake, or one of the other nearby bodies of water and beaches.[68][193] In the winter, the public has access to five ski resorts within a couple hours of the city. The closest of these is the Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park,[194] which has trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and dog sledding.[195]


The Fox Theater in Spokane's Davenport Arts District
The Fox Theater

Arts and theater

Spokane's main art districts are located in the Davenport Arts District, the Garland Business District, and East Sprague.[196] The First Friday Artwalk, which occurs the first Friday of every month, is dedicated to local vendors and performers displaying art around downtown.[197] The two most important Artwalk dates (the first Friday of February and October) attract large crowds to the art districts. The Davenport Arts District has the largest concentration of art galleries and is home to many of Spokane's main performing arts venues, including the Knitting Factory, Fox Theater, and Bing Crosby Theater. The Knitting Factory is a concert house that serves as a setting for many mainstream touring musicians and acts. The Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox, restored to its original 1931 Art Deco state after years of being derelict,[73] is home to the Spokane Symphony Orchestra. The Metropolitan Performing Arts Center was restored in 1988 and renamed the Bing Crosby Theater in 2006 to honor the former Spokanite.[198] Theater is provided by Spokane's only resident professional company, The Modern Theater,[199] though there are also the Spokane Civic Theatre and several other amateur community theaters and smaller groups. The INB Performing Arts Center is often host to large traveling exhibitions, shows, and tours. Spokane was awarded the All-America City Award by the National Civic League in 1974, 2004, and 2015.[200]

Spokane offers an array of musical performances catering to a variety of interests. Spokane's local music scene, however, is considered somewhat lacking by the Spokane All-Ages Music Initiative and other critics, who have identified a need for a legitimate all-ages venue for music performances.[201] The Spokane Symphony presents a full season of classical music, and the Spokane Jazz Orchestra, a full season of jazz music.[202] The Spokane Jazz Orchestra, formed in 1962, is a 70-piece orchestra and non-profit organization.[203]


The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Brownes' Addition
Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture

There are several museums in the city, most notably the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, located a few blocks from the center of downtown in Browne's Addition, amid the mansions of Spokane's late 19th-century "Age of Elegance". A Smithsonian affiliate museum, it houses a large collection of Native American artifacts as well as regional and national traveling art exhibits.[204][205]

The Mobius Science Center and the related Mobius Kid's Museum in downtown Spokane seek to generate interest in science, technology, engineering, and math among the youth in a hands-on experience.[206] The Jundt Art Museum at Gonzaga University features 2,800 square feet (260 m2) of exhibition space and contains sizable collections of prints from the Bolker, Baruch, Jacobs, and Corita Kent collections.[207][208] The museum houses glass art by Dale Chihuly, bronze sculptures by Auguste Rodin, tapestries, paintings, ceramics, photographs, and a wide range of gifts, including from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and Collections.[207] On the campus of Gonzaga University, the Crosby House, Bing Crosby's childhood home, houses the Bing Crosby Memorabilia Room, the world's largest Crosby collection with around 200 pieces.[209]

Events and activities

Spokane is known as the birthplace of the national movement started by Sonora Smart Dodd that led to the proposal and eventual establishment of Father's Day as a national holiday in the U.S.[210] The first observation of Father's Day in Spokane was on June 19, 1910.[211] Sonora conceived the idea in Spokane's Central Methodist Episcopal Church while listening to a Mother's Day sermon.[212]

Runners participating in Spokane's annual Lilac Bloomsday Run
Lilac Bloomsday Run

The Lilac Bloomsday Run, held in the spring on the first Sunday of May, is a 7.46-mile (12.01 km) race for competitive runners as well as walkers that attracts international competition.[213] Also in May is the Lilac Festival which honors the military, celebrates youth, and showcases the region.[214] Spokane's nickname, the "Lilac City", refers to a flowering shrub that has flourished since its introduction to the area in the early 20th century.[215] In June the city hosts Spokane Hoopfest, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, among the largest of its kind.[216] One of Spokane's most popular local events is Pig Out in the Park, an annual six-day food and entertainment festival where attendees may eat a variety of foods and listen to free live music concerts featuring local, regional, and national recording artists in Riverfront Park.[217]

The Spokane International Film Festival, held every February, is a small, juried festival that features documentaries and shorts from around the world.[218] The Spokane Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, held every November, features contemporary, independent films of interest to the GLBT community.[219]

Other notable events in Spokane include the Spokane Interstate Fair, Spokane Comic-Con, Japan Week, and the Spokane Pride Parade. The Spokane Interstate Fair is held annually in September at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center.[220] Japan Week is held in April and celebrates the sister-city relationship with Nishinomiya, Hyogo, demonstrating the many commonalities shared between the two cities.[221] Students from the Spokane campus of Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute, Gonzaga, Whitworth, and other area schools organize an array of Japanese cultural events. The gay and lesbian Spokane Pride Parade is held each June.[222] There is an annual Renaissance fair and Civil War reenactment as well.[223][224]


Main article: Education in Spokane
Saint Aloysius Church on the Gonzaga University campus
St. Aloysius Church at Gonzaga University

Serving the general educational needs of the local population are two public library districts, the Spokane Public Library (within city limits) and the Spokane County Library District. Founded in 1904 with funding from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the Spokane Public Library system comprises a downtown library overlooking the Spokane Falls and five branch libraries.[225] Special collections focus on Inland Pacific Northwest history and include reference books, periodicals, maps, photographs, and other archival materials and government documents.[226]

Spokane Public Schools (District 81) was organized in 1889 and is the largest public school system in Spokane and the second largest in the state as of 2014, serving roughly 30,000 students in six high schools, six middle schools, and thirty-four elementary schools.[227][228] Other public school districts in the Spokane area include the Mead School District in north Spokane County, outside city limits. A variety of state-approved, independent charter schools and private and parochial elementary and secondary schools augment the public school system. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane manages 11 such schools in Spokane.[229]

Spokane is home to many higher education institutions. They include the private universities Gonzaga and Whitworth, and the public Community Colleges of Spokane system (Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College) as well as a variety of technical institutes. Gonzaga University and Law School were founded by the Italian-born priest Joseph Cataldo and the Jesuits in 1887.[230] Whitworth was founded in Tacoma, Washington in 1890 and moved to its present location in 1914. It is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church and had 2,500 students studying in 53 different undergraduate and degree programs as of 2011.[231] While Spokane is one of the larger cities in the U.S. to lack a main campus of a state-supported university within its city limits, Eastern Washington University (EWU) and Washington State University (WSU) have operations at the Riverpoint Campus in the University District, just adjacent to downtown and across the Spokane River from the Gonzaga campus.[232][233] Washington State University Spokane is WSU's health sciences campus and houses the school's College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, and Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.[70][234] The main EWU campus is located 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Spokane in nearby Cheney, and WSU is located 65 miles (105 km) to the south in Pullman. In addition to WSU's health science presence in Spokane, there is also a four-year medical school branch affiliated with the University of Washington's WWAMI program.[69] An international branch campus of the Mukogawa Women's University, the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute, is located in Spokane.[235]


The Spokane Arena sports venue
The Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena

Spokane is close to dozens of lakes and rivers for outdoor sports and recreation. People use these for swimming, boating, rafting, and fishing. Nearby mountains provide for skiing, hiking, biking and sightseeing.[236] Spokane's professional and semi-professional sports teams include the Spokane Indians in Minor League Baseball, Spokane Empire in indoor football, and Spokane Chiefs in junior ice hockey.[237] Collegiate sports in Spokane focus on the local teams such as the Gonzaga Bulldogs that compete in the NCAA's Division I West Coast Conference and the Whitworth Pirates playing in the Division III Northwest Conference as well as other regional teams, including the Washington State Cougars, Eastern Washington Eagles, and the Idaho Vandals.[237]

The Spokane Indians are a Class-A-Short-Season baseball team in the Northwest League (NWL) and have been a farm team of the Texas Rangers since 2003.[238][239] The Indians play their home games at the 6,803-seat Avista Stadium and have won seven NWL titles since their Short-Season-A debut in 1982.[238] Prior to 1982, the Indians played at the Triple-A level. The team achieved considerable success in the early 1970s, winning the Pacific Coast League championship in 1970, and having a 94–52 record.[240] In the 1920s and 1930s the Spokane City League, a semiprofessional baseball league of teams of the Inland Empire, reached its peak.[241]

The Spokane Empire is an indoor football franchise that competes in the Indoor Football League that has a regional rivalry with the Tri-Cities Fever.[242] The city's first indoor football franchise, the Spokane Shock of the Arena Football League league went defunct when the AFL decided to retain the rights to the Shock franchise after they requested a departure and move from the AFL to the IFL, necessitating the naming of a new franchise beginning with the 2016 season.[243] The Spokane Chiefs are a junior ice hockey team that play in the Canadian Hockey League's Western Hockey League.[244] They play their home games in the Spokane Arena and have a regional rivalry with the Tri-City Americans. They have won the CHL's top prize, the Memorial Cup, two times in club history, first in 1991 and again in 2008.[244]

The Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena is the city's premier sports venue. In the years since the Spokane Arena opened, it has played host to several major sporting events. The first major event was the 1998 Memorial Cup, the championship game of the Canadian Hockey League.[245] Four years later in 2002, the city hosted the 2002 Skate America figure skating competition[246] and then the 2007 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in the Spokane Arena.[247] The latter event set an attendance record, selling nearly 155,000 tickets. Spokane later hosted the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships[247] – ending eighteen days before the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia and then the 2016 Team Challenge Cup.[248]



City streets

Overlooking Spokane from Sunset Hill.

Spokane's streets use a street grid that is oriented to the four cardinal directions; generally, the east–west roads are designated as avenues, and the north–south roads are referred to as streets. Major east–west thoroughfares in the city include Francis, Wellesley, Mission, Sprague, and 29th Avenues. Major north–south thoroughfares include Maple–Ash, Monroe, Division, Hamilton, Greene–Market (north of I-90), and Ray–Freya (south of I-90) Streets. Division Street divides the city into East and West, while Sprague Avenue splits the city into North and South.[249] Division Street is Spokane's major retail corridor; Sprague Avenue serves the same purpose in Spokane Valley. With over 40,000 vehicles per day in average daily traffic from Interstate 90 north to the US 2–US 395 junction, North Division is Spokane's busiest corridor.[250]

Spokane has an average Walk Score of 47.6, indicating most errands require a car, and an average Bike Score of 48.6.[251] The extensive skywalk system covers thirteen blocks in the downtown area and is among the largest in the United States; it is used for pedestrian travel in cold and inclement weather and retail space as well.[252][253]

Mass transportation

The STA bus plaza in Downtown Spokane
The STA Plaza in Downtown Spokane

Before the influx of automobiles, Spokane's electric streetcar and interurban lines played a dominant role in moving people and goods around Spokane. Streetcars were installed as early as 1888, when they were pulled by horses.[254] Many older side streets in Spokane still have visible streetcar rails embedded in them. Streetcar service was reduced due to declining ridership beginning in 1922, and by August 1936, all lines had been abandoned or converted to motor buses.[255] Mass transportation throughout the Spokane area is provided by the Spokane Transit Authority (STA), which operates a fleet of 156 buses. Its service area covers roughly 248 square miles (640 km2) and reaches 85 percent of the county's population.[256] A large percentage of STA bus routes originate from the central hub, the STA Plaza in downtown Spokane. Spokane has a Transit Score of 35.4 on Walk Score.[251] Spokane has rail and bus service provided by Amtrak and Greyhound via the Spokane Intermodal Center. The city is a stop for Amtrak's Empire Builder on its way to and from Chicago's Union Station en route to Seattle and Portland.[257] Amtrak's through service to Seattle and Portland is a legacy of BNSF Railway's old Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway trackage.[258] Spokane is a major railway junction for the BNSF Railway and the Union Pacific Railroad and is the western terminus for the Montana Rail Link.[258]

Freeways and highways

Interstate 90 heading into Spokane from the east
I-90 descending Sunset Hill into Spokane

Interstate 90 runs east–west from Seattle, through downtown Spokane, and eastward through Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, and onward to Coeur d'Alene and then Missoula.[259] Although they are not limited access highways like I-90 , US 2 and US 395 enter Spokane from the west via I-90 and continue north through Spokane via Division St. The two highways share the same route until they reach "The Y", where US 395 continues northward to Deer Park, Colville then onward to Canada, and US 2 branches off to the northeast, continuing to Mead, Newport, and Sandpoint. US 195 , also known as the Inland Empire Highway, connects to Interstate 90 west of Spokane near Latah Creek and travels south through the Palouse.[259]

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is tasked with improving local highways to keep up with the region's growth and to try to prevent congestion problems that plague many larger cities. The WSDOT is constructing the North Spokane Corridor. When completed, the corridor will be a 10.5-mile-long (16.9 km) limited-access highway that will run from I-90, in the vicinity of the Thor/Freya interchange, northward through Spokane, meeting the existing US 395 just south of the Wandermere Golf Course.[260]


Outside view of Concourse C, Spokane Airport

Spokane International Airport (IATA: GEG, ICAO: KGEG) serves as the primary commercial airport for Spokane, Eastern Washington, and Northern Idaho. It is the second largest airport in the state of Washington and is recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration as a small hub, with service from six airlines and two air cargo carriers.[261] The 4,800-acre (19.42 km2) airport is located 5 miles (8.0 km) west of downtown Spokane and is approximately a 10-minute drive away. The international airport's three-letter designation is "GEG", a result and legacy of the Geiger Field days prior to 1960, when the airport was named after Army aviator Major Harold Geiger in 1941.[262]

Felts Field is a general aviation airport serving the Spokane area and is located in east Spokane along the south bank of the Spokane River. Aviation at Felts Field dates back to 1913 and the strip served as Spokane's primary airport until commercial air traffic was redirected to Geiger Field after World War II.[262] In 1927, the strip was one of the first in the western U.S. to receive official recognition as an airport by the U.S. Department of Commerce and is now named in honor of James Buell Felts, a Washington Air National Guard pilot.[262]


Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane's "Medical District" on the lower South Hill
Deaconess Medical Center

The Spokane area has six major hospitals, four of which are full-service facilities.[263] The healthcare industry is a large and increasingly important industry in Spokane; the city provides specialized care to many patients from the surrounding Inland Northwest and as far north as the Canada–US border.[264] The city's healthcare needs are served primarily by non-profit Seattle-based Providence Health & Services and for-profit Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, which run the two biggest hospitals, Sacred Heart Medical Center, and Deaconess Medical Center, respectively.[265] These two hospitals, along with most of Spokane's major health care facilities, are located on Spokane's Lower-South Hill, just south of downtown, in what is known as the "Medical District" of Spokane.[266] The Sacred Heart Hospital, opened originally, with just 31 beds,[267] on Spokane Falls Boulevard on January 27, 1887, but later moved to its present location at 101 West Eighth Avenue.[268] As of 2014 it had 642 beds, with 28,319 admissions, 71,543 emergency room visits, and 2,982 births annually, and a full-time staff of 29 doctors and dentists and 583 registered nurses.[269] Deaconess Medical Center, the smaller of the two main hospitals, had 388 beds as of 2014.[270] Other hospitals in the area include the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the northwest part of town, Holy Family Hospital on the north side, and Valley Hospital and Medical Center in the Spokane Valley. One of 20 specialty orthopedic Shriners Hospitals in the U.S. is also located in Spokane.[271] One of Washington's two state psychiatric hospitals, Eastern State Hospital, is located 15 miles (24 km) away in Medical Lake.[272]


The Monroe Street Dam falls on the Spokane River
Monroe Street Dam

The City of Spokane provides municipal water, wastewater management, and solid waste management.[273] Spokane operates Washington's only waste-to-energy plant as well as two solid waste transfer stations as part of the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System, a collaboration between the City of Spokane and Spokane County.[274] Electricity generated by the waste-to-energy plant is used to operate the facility, with excess energy being sold to Puget Sound Energy.[274] Spokane draws its water from the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer; this 370-square-mile (958 km2) "sole source aquifer" is the only water supply for Spokane County in Washington, and for Kootenai and Bonner counties in Idaho.[275] Serving over 500,000 people, the aquifer is distinguished in being one of the largest aquifers in the country at 10 trillion gallons, as well as having one of the fastest flow rates in the country at 60 feet per day, and for its purity.[276][i]

Natural gas and electricity are provided by the local utility, Avista Utilities, while CenturyLink and Comcast provide television, internet, and telephone service. Spokane hosts three hydroelectric generation facilities on the Spokane River: the Upriver Dam, the Upper Falls Dam, and the Monroe Street Dam. The Upriver Dam is owned and operated by the City of Spokane, and generates the electricity needed to operate the municipal water supply's pressure pumps.[277] The power generated in excess of that is sold to Avista Utilities.[277] The Upper Falls and Monroe Street dams are owned and operated by Avista Utilities, and have respective generation capacities of 10 and 15 MW.[278]


The Spokesman-Review building
The Review Building

Newspaper service in Spokane is provided by its only major daily newspaper, The Spokesman-Review, which has a daily circulation of 76,291 and Sunday circulation of 95,939.[279][280] The Spokesman-Review was formed from the merger of the Spokane Falls Review (1883–1894) and the Spokesman (1890–1893) in 1893 and was first published under the present name on June 29, 1894.[281][282] It later absorbed the competing afternoon paper The Spokane Daily Chronicle, a significant newspaper that existed from 1890 until the merger in 1982.[283][284][j] More specialized publications include the weekly alternative newspaper The Pacific Northwest Inlander,[285] the bi-weekly business journal The Spokane Journal of Business,[286] the student-run The Gonzaga Bulletin, the monthly GLBT newsmagazine Q View Northwest, and a monthly newspaper for parents, Kids newspaper. The city also has several community magazines, such as the monthly paper covering the Garland neighborhood, The Garland Times, and Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living, a monthly home and lifestyle magazine.[287]

According to Arbitron, Spokane is the 94th largest radio market in the U.S., with 532,100 listeners aged 12 and over.[288] There are 28 AM and FM radio stations broadcast in the city.[289] The five most listened-to stations are KKZX-FM (classic rock), KQNT-AM (news/talk), KXLY-FM (country), KISC-FM (adult contemporary), and KZZU-FM (Hot AC).[290] Spokane's primary sources of non-commercial and community radio include Spokane's NPR-affiliate station KPBX-FM and KYRS, a full-power community radio station.[291]

Spokane is the 73rd largest television market in the U.S., accounting for 0.366% of the total TV households in the U.S.[292] The city has six television stations, representing the major commercial networks and public television.[293] Spokane is the television broadcast center for much of eastern Washington (except the Yakima and Tri-Cities area), northern Idaho, northwestern Montana, northeastern Oregon, and parts of southern Canada (by cable television). Spokane receives broadcasts in the Pacific Time Zone, with weekday prime time beginning at 8 pm. Montana and Alberta, Canada are in the Mountain Time Zone and receive Spokane broadcasts one hour later by their local time. The major network television affiliates include KREM (TV) 2 (CBS), KXLY-TV 4 (ABC), KHQ-TV 6 (NBC; Spokane's first television station, on air on December 20, 1952), KAYU 28 (FOX), KSKN 22 (The CW), KSPS-TV 7 (PBS), and KCDT-TV 26 (PBS; operating out of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho).[293]

Notable people

Sister cities

Spokane has six current sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International: [294]

See also


^[a] The name is said to derive from Spukcane, the vocalization of a sound made by a snake which the Chief of the Spokanes came to call "power from the brain" after pondering it made his head vibrate. It is unknown when the present meaning of the word, "Sun People" replaced this earlier meaning.[9]
^[b] Unbeknownst to them, the Spokane Valley was the only area within 200 miles that could provide passage to the Inland Empire through the Rockies at a reasonable grade.[23]
^[c] The present name, set forth by an 1891 charter reincorporated the city under the name "Spokane Falls", stating: "The corporate name of the city is Spokane Falls, and by that name shall have perpetual succession" (Charter, Article I). However, a later article in that same charter which was voted on concurrently changed the name to "Spokane."[295]
^[d] Secretary of the Spokane chamber of commerce, John R. Reavis tells of Spokane's significance to the Inland Northwest region as a distributing center (largely the city's raison d'être) in his 1891 Annual Report, writing: "By reason of her geographical position and railroad connections Spokane is fitted as no other city is, or ever can be, to be the distributing center of all that country within a radius of 150 miles, and in some instances territory much farther away. There is no point 150 miles from Spokane that is not at least 225 miles from any other city of 10,000 population. We have about us a territory of 60,000 square miles in extent, to every point of which we are nearer than any other city, to every point of which we have better railroad connections and easier grades than any other city ... We have eight lines of railroad that radiate out in all directions through it, so that shipments made here in the morning can reach any point within its borders by nightfall. We have a telephone system connecting us with almost every shipping town and shipping station within its borders. Goods may be ordered, shipped and received, in most instances, within one day. Never was a city more intimately knit to its surrounding territory than Spokane, and never was one more free from a legitimate rival in trade ..."[296]
^[e] The financing for rebuilding the downtown core came in large part from the infusion of investment from Dutch bankers; this investment was so deep that by 1896, one prominent Dutch mortgage company, the Northwestern and Pacific Hypotheekbank owned a quarter of the city.[297]
^[f] In 1892, the Interstate Commerce Commission agreed with the city after it filed a complaint about these practices, but that decision was struck down by a federal court. In 1906, Spokane sued under the newly passed Hepburn Act, and won on July 24, 1911.[298]
^[g] The exact circumstances and sequence of events regarding the discovery of the tree are obscure due to conflicting accounts.
^[h] Average monthly temperatures obtained by summing the average monthly highs and lows then dividing by 2.
^[i] A study published in the Spokesman-Review on May 6, 1909 by City bacteriologist, Frank Rose found only seven or eight germs per cubic centimeter of water. As a standard, "water that contains 100 germs per cubic centimeter is considered comparatively pure".
^[j] The Spokesman-Review has been a family-owned newspaper since 1894. The Cowles family also owns the city's NBC affiliate, KHQ-TV.[283]


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Further reading

  • Bamonte, Tony; Bamonte, Suzanne (2011). Spokane Our Early History Under All is the Land. Spokane, Washington: Tornado Creek Publications. ISBN 978-0982152935. OCLC 759122758. 
  • Edwards, Jonathan; Nelson Durham (1900). Illustrated history of Spokane county (DJVU). Washington State Library's Classics in Washington History collection. Spokane, Washington: W.H. Lever. ISBN 978-1-153-38635-7. OCLC 25321986. 
  • MacGibbon, Elma (1904). "Spokane and the Inland Empire". Leaves of knowledge (DJVU). Washington State Library's Classics in Washington History collection. Spokane, Washington: Shaw & Borden. ISBN 978-1-110-68499-1. OCLC 61326250. 
  • Matthews, Henry (1998). Kirtland Cutter: Architect in the Land of Promise. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press. ISBN 978-0-295-98766-8. OCLC 38536054. 
  • Meinig, Donald W. (1968). The Great Columbia Plain; a historical geography, 1805–1910. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press. ISBN 978-0-295-97485-9. OCLC 436410. 
  • Morrissey, Katherine G. (1997). "Inset - Spokane". Mental Territories: Mapping the Inland Empire. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-8326-4. OCLC 37187429. 
  • Wang, David (2003). Sounding Spokane: perspectives on the built environment of a regional city. Spokane, Washington: Eastern Washington University Press. ISBN 978-0-910055-85-7. OCLC 51306066. 
  • Youngs, William T. (1996). The Fair and the Falls: Spokane Expo '74: Transforming an American environment. Cheney, Washington: Eastern Washington University Press. ISBN 978-0-910055-33-8. OCLC 866331426. 
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Spokane.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Spokane.

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