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definition - Spokane, Washington

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Spokane, Washington

—  City  —
City of Spokane
Downtown Spokane as seen from Palisades Park looking east


Nickname(s): The Lilac City
Motto: Near Nature. Near Perfect.
Location of Spokane in
Spokane County and Washington
Coordinates: 47°39′32″N 117°25′30″W / 47.65889°N 117.425°W / 47.65889; -117.425Coordinates: 47°39′32″N 117°25′30″W / 47.65889°N 117.425°W / 47.65889; -117.425
Country United States
State Washington
County Spokane
Founded 1871
Incorporated November 29, 1881
 • Type Mayor-Council
 • Mayor David Condon (R)
 • City 57.8 sq mi (151.6 km2)
 • Land 56.8 sq mi (149.6 km2)
 • Water 0.8 sq mi (2.0 km2)  1.3%
Elevation 1,843 ft (562 m)
Population (2010)
 • City 208,916 (US: 100th)
 • Density 3,387.0/sq mi (1,307.7/km2)
 • Metro 609,715 (Combined)
  city[1] metro[2]
Demonym Spokanite
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 509
FIPS code 53-67000[4]
GNIS feature ID 1512683[5]
Website www.spokanecity.org

Spokane (play /spˈkæn/, US dict: spō·kăn′) is a city located in the Northwestern United States in the state of Washington. It is the largest city of Spokane County of which it is also the county seat,[6] and the metropolitan center of the Inland Northwest region. The city is located on the Spokane River in Eastern Washington, 110 miles (180 km) south of the Canadian border, approximately 20 miles (32 km) from the Washington–Idaho border, and 271 miles (436 km) east of Seattle.

David Thompson explored the Spokane area and began European settlement 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 and the center of the fur trade between the Rockies and the Cascades for 16 years. In the late 19th century, gold and silver were discovered in the Inland Northwest. The Spokane area is considered to be one of the most productive mining districts in North America. Spokane's economy has traditionally been based on natural resources, being a center for mining, timber, and agriculture; however, the city's economy has diversified to include other industries, including the high-tech and biotech sectors. Spokane is known as the birthplace of Father's Day, hosted the first environmentally themed World's Fair, Expo '74, and is home to Gonzaga University and Whitworth University.

The city of Spokane (then known as "Spokan Falls") was settled in 1871 and officially incorporated as a city in 1881. The city's name is drawn from the Native American tribe known as the Spokane, which means "Children of the Sun" in Salishan.[7] Spokane's official nickname is the "Lilac City", named after the flowers that have flourished since their introduction to the area in the early 20th century.[8] Completion of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1881 brought major settlement to the Spokane area.

With a population of 208,916, according to the 2010 Census, Spokane is the second largest city in Washington, and the third largest in the American portion of the Pacific Northwest, behind Seattle, and Portland, Oregon, and is the 100th largest city in the United States. Spokane is the principal city of the Spokane Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is coterminous with Spokane County. As of 2010, the county had a population of 471,221.[9]



  Spokane Falls in 1888

The first humans to live in the Spokane area arrived between twelve to eight thousand years ago and were hunter-gatherer societies that lived off the plentiful game in the area. The Spokane tribe, after which the city is named, are believed to be either direct descendants of the original hunter-gatherers that settled in the region, or descendants of tribes from the Great Plains.[10] When asked by early white explorers, the tribe said their ancestors came from "up North".[10]

Early in the 19th century, the Northwest Fur Company sent two white fur trappers west of the Rocky Mountains to search for fur.[11] The trappers became the first two white men met by the Spokane tribe, who believed them to be Sama, or sacred, and set the trappers up in the Colville River valley for the winter.[12]

  Trading post

The Inland Northwest was first explored by explorer-geographer David Thompson, working as head of the North West Company's Columbia Department.[13] Crossing what is now the U.S.–Canadian border from British Columbia, Thompson wanted to expand the North West Company further south in search of furs, primarily beaver. After establishing the Kullyspell House and Saleesh House trading posts in what is now Idaho and Montana, Thompson wanted to expand further west. In 1810, Thompson sent out trappers, Jacques Raphael Finlay and Finan McDonald to the Spokane River to build a trading post in eastern Washington that would exchange with the local Spokane and Colville Indians.[13]

At the confluence of the Little Spokane and Spokane, Finlay and McDonald built a new fur trading post, which was the first long-term European settlement in Washington state.[13] This trading post known as the Spokane House, or simply "Spokane", was in operation from 1810 to 1826.[7] The Spokane House, operated by the British North West Company and, later, the Hudson's Bay Company, was the center of the fur trade between the Rockies and the Cascades for 16 years. When the Hudson's Bay Company absorbed the North West Company in 1821, operations at the Spokane House eventually shifted to Fort Colville; afterward the company still remained active near Spokane.[14]

  American settlement

Joint American–British occupation of Oregon Country, in effect since the Treaty of 1818, eventually led to the Oregon Boundary Dispute as large influxes of American settlers began arriving by the Oregon Trail. The first American settlers, squatters J.J. Downing and S.R. Scranton, built a cabin and established a claim at Spokane Falls in 1871.[15] Together they built a small sawmill on a claim near the south bank of the Spokane Falls.[15] James N. Glover and Jasper Matheney, Oregonians passing through the region in 1873, recognized the value of the Spokane River and its falls. They realized the investment potential and bought the claims of 160 acres (0.65 km2) and the sawmill from Downing and Scranton for a total of $4,000.[16] Glover and Matheney knew that the Northern Pacific Railroad Company had received a government charter to build a main line across this northern route.[17] Glover later became known as the "Father of Spokane".[18]

  Spokane ca. 1895

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.[19] By 1881, the Northern Pacific Railway was completed, bringing major European settlement to the area.[20] 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.[21] The city's population ballooned to 19,922 in 1890, and 36,848 in 1900 with the arrival of the railroads.[22] By 1910, the population hit 104,000 and Spokane eclipsed Walla Walla as the commercial center of the Inland Northwest.[23]

After the 1883 discovery of gold, silver, and lead in the in the Coeur d'Alene region of northern Idaho, this precipitated a rush of prospectors into the region. The Inland Empire erupted with numerous mining rushes from 1883 to the late 19th century. Mining emerged as a major stimulus to Spokane. At the onset of the initial 1883 gold rush near Coeur d'Alene, Spokane became the outfitter of choice among prospectors due to the areas proximity, lower prices, and convenience of being able to obtain everything "from a horse to a frying pan".[24] It would keep this status for subsequent rushes in the region due to its' trade center status and accessibility to railroad infrastructure.[25]

Spokane's growth continued unabated until August 4, 1889, when a fire, now known as The Great Fire, began shortly after 6:00 p.m. and destroyed the city's downtown commercial district.[26] Due to technical problems with a pump station, there was no water pressure in the city when the fire started.[27] In an effort to starve the fire, firefighters began demolishing buildings with dynamite. Eventually winds died down and the fire exhausted of its own accord. In the fires' aftermath, 32 blocks of Spokane's downtown were destroyed and one person was killed.[26]

While the damage caused by the fire was a devastating blow, Spokane continued to grow; the fire set the stage for a dramatic building boom.[22][28] After The Great Fire of 1889 and the rebuilding of the downtown, the city was reincorporated under the present name of "Spokane" in 1891.[21] Just three years after the fire, in 1892, James J. Hill's Great Northern Railway had arrived in the newly created township of Hillyard (annexed by Spokane in 1924)—the chosen site for Hill's rail yards.[29] The railroads in Spokane made it a transportation hub for the Inland Northwest region.[30] Spokane became an important rail and shipping center because of its location between mining (particularly Idaho's Silver Valley) and farming areas.[31] After the arrival of the Northern Pacific, the Union Pacific, Great Northern, and Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific railroads, Spokane became one of the most important rail centers in the western United States.[22][30]

  20th century

  The Monroe Street Bridge, 1911

The expansion and growth of Spokane abruptly stopped in the 1910s and was followed by a period of population decline.[32] Spokane's slowing economy largely contributed to this decline. Control of regional mines and resources became increasingly dominated by national corporations rather than locals, diverting capital outside of Spokane and decreasing growth and investment opportunities in the city.[32]

During this time of stagnation there became unrest among the areas unemployed, who became victimized by "job sharks" who swindled men who applied for jobs. Job sharks charged a fee for signing up workers in the logging camps and employment agencies were known to cheat itinerant workers, with bribes sometimes paid to periodically fire entire work crews, generating repetitive fees.[33] It is around this time in Spokane that the first of many nation-wide free speech fights conducted by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) or "Wobblies" had begun, spread, and garnered national attention.[34] In 1908, the IWW launched a campaign led by James H. Walsh with the slogan "Don't Buy Jobs" in the streets around the Spokane employment agencies.[34] More IWW union members from all over the West soon arrived to participate in what was becoming a publicity venture. Within a few weeks the jails were overflowing from those violating the ordinance prohibiting soapboxing. Among those jailed was feminist labor leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who published an account in the local Industrial Worker of her experiences in a Spokane jail.[35]

After mining declined at the turn of the 20th century, agriculture and logging became the primary influences in the Spokane economy. The population explosion and the building of homes, railroads, and mines in northern Idaho and southern British Columbia fueled the industry.[36] Although overshadowed in importance by the vast timbered areas on the coastal regions west of the Cascades, and burdened with cumbersome rail freight rates and stiff competition, Spokane became a noted leader in the manufacture of doors, sash, blinds, and other planing mill products.[37] The oppressive rail freight rates were much higher in Spokane than the rates in coastal cities such as Seattle and Portland, so much so that merchants in Minneapolis could ship goods first to Seattle and then back to Spokane for less than to ship directly to Spokane, even though the rail line ran through Spokane on the way to the coast.[38][39] The 1920s and 1930s saw the similar, but less drastic slow growth of the prior decade. The Inland Northwest region was heavily dependent on extractive products produced from farms, forests, and mines which experienced a fall in demand.[40] Spokane's situation improved with the start of World War II as aluminum production was initiated in Spokane due to the area's inexpensive electricity and the increased demand for airplanes.

  The Great Northern clock tower and U.S. Pavilion in Riverfront Park

After decades of stagnation and slow growth, Spokane businessmen formed Spokane Unlimited, an organization that sought to revitalize downtown Spokane.[41] A recreation park showcasing the Spokane falls was the preferred option, and after the successful negotiation to relocate the railroad facilities on Havermale Island, this allowed the proposal of hosting a world's fair to be realized.[42] Spokane hosted the first environmentally themed World's Fair in Expo '74 on May 4, becoming the smallest city yet to host a World's Fair.[43] This event transformed Spokane's downtown, removing a century of railroad industry that built the city and reinvented the urban core. After Expo '74, the fairgrounds became the 100-acre (0.40 km2) Riverfront Park.[44] The late 1970s was a period of growth for Spokane.[45]

The success seen in the late 1970s and early 1980s once again was interrupted by another U.S. recession in which silver, timber, and farm prices dropped. Although a tough period, Spokane's economy had begun to benefit from economic diversification, being the home to growing companies such as Key Tronic and having research, marketing, and assembly plants for other technology companies helped lessen Spokane's dependency on natural resources.[46]

  21st century

  Spokane has an extensive Skywalk network

In the new century, Spokane is still reinventing itself to a more service-oriented economy in the face of a less prominent manufacturing sector.[47] Developing the city's strength in the medical and health sciences fields has been promising, resulting in the expansion of the University District with a medical school. Although the city faces challenges such as relatively low wages, pockets of poverty, and a sense of doubt regarding aspects of city government, there is an air of optimism for the city's future.[47]

The city has experienced renewed growth since the opening of the River Park Square Mall, initiating a major downtown rebirth that included the building of the Spokane Arena and expansion of the Spokane Convention Center.[47] Other major projects include the building of the Big Easy concert house (now the Knitting Factory), renovation of the historic Montvale Hotel, the Kirtland Cutter-designed Davenport Hotel (after being vacant for over 20 years), and the Fox Theater (now home to the Spokane Symphony).[48][49] The Kendall Yards development on the west side of downtown Spokane is one of the largest construction projects in the city's history. This new "urban village" directly across the Spokane River from downtown will blend residential and retail space with plazas and walking trails.[47]



Spokane is located on the Spokane River in Eastern Washington, near the eastern border of Washington, about 20 miles (32 km) from Idaho, 110 miles (180 km) south of the Canadian border and 280 miles (450 km) east of Seattle, and 279 miles (449 km) southwest of Calgary.[50] The city lies at the geographical co-ordinates of 47.39 North latitude and 117.25 West longitude. Spokane is part of the Inland Northwest region (long known as the Inland Empire), consisting of eastern Washington, northern Idaho, northwestern Montana, and northeastern Oregon.[51] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 58.5 square miles (152 km2), of which, 57.8 square miles (150 km2) is land and 0.8 square miles (2.1 km2) is water.[52]

  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.[53] 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 of the Palouse.[54]. 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.[55] 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.[56] 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 join the Columbia River, north of Davenport.[56] Many of the area's numerous large lakes such as Lake Coeur d'Alene and Lake Pend Oreille as well as the Channeled Scablands were formed by the Missoula Floods after the ice-dammed Glacial Lake Missoula ruptured at the end of the last ice age.

Spokane is at an elevation of 1,843 feet (562 m) above sea level.[57] 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) and 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).[58]


Spokane has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dsb), a rare climate due to its elevation and significant winter precipitation, precluding a semi-arid climate classification.[59][60] The area is typified by a very warm, arid climate during the summer months and a cold, snowy, and moist climate in the winter.[53] Both summer and winter are the predominant seasons, as spring and fall constitute a rapid transition. On average, July and August are equally warm, and the coolest month is December.[61] Daily temperature ranges are large during the summer, approaching, and often exceeding 100 °F (37.8 °C), and small during the winter, with a range just above 10 °F (6 °C). December, the coolest month, averages 27.2 °F (−2.7 °C), while July and August, which are equally warm, average 68.6 °F (20.3 °C). Extremes range from 108 °F (42 °C) to −30 °F (−34 °C), but temperatures of more than 100 °F (38 °C) and less than −10 °F (−23 °C) are rare.[53]

Because of Spokane's location between the Cascade Mountains to the west and Rocky Mountains to the east and north, the city is protected 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.[62] As a result of the rain shadow effect of the Cascade Mountains, the Spokane area also has less than half the rainfall of its west side neighbor, Seattle. The average annual precipitation in the Spokane area is 17 inches (430 mm), whereas the Seattle area receives 37 inches (940 mm) annually.[62] The most precipitation occurs in December, and summer is the driest time of the year.[61] The Rocky Mountains shield Spokane from the winter season's cold air masses traveling southward across Canada, sparing the city from the worst effects of Arctic air in winter.[62]


Much of Spokane's history is reflected in its large variety of neighborhoods. Neighborhoods range from the Victorian-era style South Hill and Browne's Addition, to the Davenport Arts 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][66] Division Street splits the city into East and West; Sprague Avenue divides the city into North and South.[67]

Some of Spokane's most prominent neighborhoods are the Riverside, Browne's Addition, and Hillyard neighborhoods. 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 cities public facilities, including City Hall, Riverfront Park (site of Expo '74), the Spokane Convention and INB Performing Arts Center, the Spokane Arena as well as the Spokane County Courthouse across the river in the West Central neighborhood. The Monroe Street Bridge, a city icon featured in the city's seal, connects the two areas. To the east of downtown is East Central and the University District and International District[68] and to the west of downtown is one of Spokane's oldest and densest neighborhoods, 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 Queen Anne and early Craftsman styles.[66] The area houses the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. In northeast Spokane, the Hillyard neighborhood came about due to the Great Northern Railway yard. The downtown Hillyard Business District, located on Market Street, became Spokane's first neighborhood to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[29] Many of the town's houses were built to house railroad workers, many immigrant laborers working in the local yard. Hillyard still caters to new arrivals, becoming a popular home for Spokane's growing Russian, Ukrainian, and Southeast Asian communities.[29]


Spokane has an average Walk Score of 54 and is rated "Somewhat Walkable".[69] Suburbanization and urban sprawl has plagued Spokane 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.[70] It is a matter of debate whether the completion of the North Spokane Corridor will exacerbate this situation further by increasing mobility.[71]


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

  Surrounding communities

  Metropolitan area

  Spokane at night from the southwest

Spokane is surrounded by many incorporated and unincorporated communities, which make up the suburbs and metropolitan area of Spokane. They include Spokane Valley, Medical Lake, Cheney, Airway Heights, Millwood, Liberty Lake, Mead, and Nine Mile Falls. Directly east of Spokane County is the Coeur d'Alene Metropolitan Statistical Area, composed entirely of Kootenai County, Idaho. Coeur d'Alene anchors the Idaho portion of the agglomeration, which includes Post Falls, Hayden, and Rathdrum.


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1880 350
1890 19,922 5,592.0%
1900 36,848 85.0%
1910 104,402 183.3%
1920 104,437 0%
1930 115,514 10.6%
1940 122,001 5.6%
1950 161,721 32.6%
1960 181,608 12.3%
1970 170,516 −6.1%
1980 171,300 0.5%
1990 177,196 3.4%
2000 195,629 10.4%
2010 208,916 6.8%

At the 2010 census, there were 208,916 people, 87,714 households, and 47,276 families residing in 94,291 housing units at population density of 3,387 people per square mile (1,307.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 86.7% White, 2.3% African American, 2.0% Native American, 2.6% Asian, 0.6% Pacific Islander, 0.9% from other races, and 4.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.0% of the population. 26.5% of the population had a Bachelor's degree or higher.[74][75]

Of the 81,512 households, 29.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.3% were married couples living together, 12.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.0% were non-families. 33.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.98.[4]

In the city the age distribution of the population shows 24.8% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 29.6% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 14.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 93 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.9 males.[4]

The median income for a household in the city was $32,273, and the median income for a family was $41,316. Males had a median income of $31,676 versus $24,833 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,451. About 11.1% of families and 15.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.3% of those under the age of 18 and 9.6% of those ages 65 and older.[4]

According to the Association of Religion Data Archives' 2000 Metro Area Membership Report, the denominational groups of the Spokane MSA are 43,397 Evangelical Protestant; 32,207 Mainline Protestant; 776 Orthodox; 57,187 Catholic; 17,351 Other; and 267,021 Unclaimed.[76] 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.[77]


  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. 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 mine in the Coeur d'Alene as well as the Colville and Kootenay districts.[78] The area is considered to be one of the most productive mining districts in North America.[79]

Natural resources have historically been the foundation of Spokane's economy, with the mining, logging, and agriculture industries providing much of the regions economic activity. After mining declined, agriculture and logging replaced mining as the primary influence in the economic development of Spokane. Agriculture has always been an important sector to Spokane's economy; the surrounding area, especially to the south, is a productive agricultural region known as the Palouse. This setting supports many vineyards and microbreweries that reside in the Spokane area.[80] By the early 20th century Spokane was primarily a commercial center rather than an industrial center.[81] As the metropolitan center of the Inland Northwest as well as southeastern British Columbia and Alberta, Spokane serves as a commercial, manufacturing, transportation, medical, shopping, and entertainment hub.[82]

  Empire State Building

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.[82] Fortune 1000 company, Potlatch Corporation, which operates as a real estate investment trust is headquartered in Spokane.[83] Forestry and agribusiness continue to be important elements in the local economy, but Spokane's economy has diversified to include other industries, including the high-tech and biotech sectors.[46] Genetics company, Signature Genomic Laboratories and technology company, Itron are headquartered in the city.[84][85] Other companies with head offices in Spokane include Key Tronic, Sterling Bank, and the Red Lion Hotels Corporation. The largest military facility and employer in the area is Fairchild Air Force Base near Airway Heights, where the 92d Air Refueling Wing is stationed.

In 2000, the leading industries in Spokane for the employed population 16 years and older were educational services, health care, and social assistance, 23.8 percent, and retail trade, 12.7 percent.[4] The health care 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 Canadian border.

Companies have located or relocated to the Spokane area, drawn by the easy access to raw materials and lower operating costs, such as cheap hydroelectric power.[86][87] Economic development in the Spokane area primarily focuses on promoting six industries which include manufacturing, aerospace manufacturing, health sciences, information technology, clean technology, and digital media.[88]


  Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture

Life in Spokane is heavily influenced by its climate and geographical location. Spokane experiences a four-season climate, and is close in proximity to dozens of lakes and rivers for swimming, boating, rafting, and fishing, as well as mountains for skiing, hiking, biking and sightseeing.[89] Within a short drive from Spokane one could find 76 lakes, 33 golf courses, five ski resorts, as well as five major national parks if you drive further.[90] The Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney is the closest natural reserve and the closest national park is Glacier National Park, approximately a four hour drive away from Spokane.

Spokane is big enough to have many amenities of a larger city, but small enough to support annual events and traditions with a small town atmosphere. Spokane was awarded the All-America City Award by the National Civic League in 1974 and 2004.[91] There are several museums in the city, most notably the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, a Smithsonian affiliate museum that houses a large collection of Native American artifacts as well as regional and national traveling art exhibits.[92] Located in Browne's Addition amid the mansions of Spokane's late 19th-century "Age of Elegance", the Museum is in a secluded setting a few blocks from the center of downtown.

  Arts and theater

  The Fox Theater

Spokane hosts a variety of visual and performing arts scenes. These attractions include a major civic theater as well as several smaller ones, the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, a jazz orchestra, an opera house, and other musical venues. The Metropolitan Performing Arts Center was restored in 1988 and renamed Bing Crosby Theater in honor of Spokane native Bing Crosby in 2006.[93]

Spokane has a vibrant art scene. Spokane's two main Artwalk dates (the first Friday of February and October) attract large crowds to the art districts. Spokane's main art districts are located in the Davenport District, the Garland Business District, and East Sprague.[94] The Davenport District is also home to many art galleries as well as some of Spokane's main performing arts venues. The First Friday Artwalk, which occurs the first Friday of every month, is dedicated to local vendors and performers displaying art around Downtown.[95]

Spokane offers an array of musical performances catering to a variety of interests. Spokane's local music scene however, is considered somewhat lacking by some, critics have identified a need for a legitimate all-ages venue for music performances.[96] The Spokane Symphony presents a full season of classical music, and the Spokane Jazz Orchestra, a full season of jazz music.[97] The Spokane Jazz Orchestra is a non-profit organization formed in 1962 that claims to be the nation's oldest, continually performing, professional, and community-supported 17-piece big band.[98]

Theater is provided by Spokane's only resident professional company, Interplayers Ensemble.[99] Theater is also provided by Spokane Civic Theatre and several amateur community theaters and smaller groups. The Fox Theater, which has been restored to its original 1931 Art Deco state, is the home of the Spokane Symphony.

  Parks and recreation

The Spokane area offers an abundance of outdoor activities that can be enjoyed in outlying natural areas that may cater to a variety of interests. In 1907, Spokane's board of park commissioners retained the services of the Olmsted Brothers to draw up a plan for Spokane's parks.[100] Much of Spokane's park land was acquired by the city prior to World War I, establishing the city early on as a leader among Western cities in the development of a city-wide park system.[101][102] Today, Spokane has a system of over 87 parks totaling 4,100 acres (17 km2).[103] This system includes six neighborhood aquatic centers. Some of the most notable parks in Spokane's extensive park 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.

  Duncan Garden at Manito Park

Riverfront Park, created after Expo '74 and occupying the same site, is 100 acres (0.40 km2) in downtown Spokane and the site of some of Spokane's largest events.[104] The park has views of the Spokane Falls, and holds a number of civic attractions, including a Skyride that is a rebuilt gondola that carries visitors across the falls from high above the river gorge, a 5-story IMAX theater, and a small amusement park (which is converted into an ice-skating rink during the winter months).[104] The park is host to a full schedule of family entertainment and events such as the Bloomsday Post-Race Celebration, Hoopfest, First Night Spokane, and outdoor concerts and other community activities. The park also includes the hand-carved Riverfront Park Looff carousel created in 1909 by Charles I. D. Looff.[104] The carousel still operates in Riverfront Park, where riders can participate in an old-time ring toss. Manito Park and Botanical Gardens, on Spokane's South Hill, has a duck pond, a central conservatory, Duncan Gardens, a classical European Renaissance style garden, and the Nishinomiya Japanese Garden designed by Nagao Sakurai. Riverside State Park, is a park close to downtown that is a popular site for hiking, mountain biking, and rafting.

A more active way to see natural sites in the Spokane area include travelling the Spokane River Centennial Trail, which features over 37 miles (60 km) of paved trails running along the Spokane River from Sontag Park in west Spokane to the east shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. This trail continues on for 24 miles (39 km) as the North Idaho Centennial Trail in Idaho and is often used for alternative transportation and recreational use. In addition to the park system within the city, there are many natural areas where outdoors activities can be enjoyed close by. In the summer, one may visit Lake Coeur d'Alene, Lake Pend Oreille, or one of the other nearby bodies of water. 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, operated by a non-profit organization.[105] Mt. Spokane has trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding.

  Events and activities

Spokane is home to annual events and attractions that draw people from the surrounding area. The Lilac Bloomsday Run, held on the first Sunday of each May, is a 7.46-mile (12.01 km) race for competitive runners as well as walkers that attracts international competition.[106] Also held in the city is Spokane Hoopfest, the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world.[107] Every year in May, Spokane hosts the Lilac Festival.[108]

  Lilac Bloomsday Run

Film festivals held in Spokane include the Spokane International Film Festival and The Spokane Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Held every February, The Spokane International Film Festival is a small, juried festival that features documentaries and shorts from around the world.[109] The Spokane Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, which is held every November, features contemporary, independent films of interest to the GLBT community.[110]

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.[111] Japan Week is held in April and celebrates the sister-city relationship with Nishinomiya, Hyogo, demonstrating the many commonalities shared between the two cities.[112] Students from the Spokane campus of Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute, Gonzaga, Whitworth, and other area schools organize an array of Japanese cultural events. The Spokane Pride Parade held each June draws gays, lesbians, and others in celebration of the value of diversity.[113]


  Spokane Arena, home of the Spokane Chiefs and Spokane Shock

Spokane's professional sports teams include the Spokane Shock (Arena Football League), Spokane Indians (Northwest League), Spokane Chiefs (Western Hockey League), and the Spokane Shine (Women's Premier Soccer League).[114]

Collegiate sports in Spokane focus on the local teams such as the Gonzaga Bulldogs that compete in the West Coast Conference as well as other regional teams including the Washington State Cougars, Eastern Washington Eagles, and the Idaho Vandals.

The Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena is Spokane's premier sports venue. In the years since the Spokane Arena opened, it along with the city of Spokane have played host to several major sporting events. The first major event was the 1998 Memorial Cup, the championship game of the Canadian Hockey League.[115] Four years later in 2002, Spokane hosted the 2002 Skate America figure skating competition.[116] Spokane hosted the 2007 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in the Spokane Arena.[117] The event set an attendance record, selling nearly 155,000 tickets and was later named the "Sports Event of the Year" by Sports Travel Magazine, beating out events such as Super Bowl XLI.[118] Spokane once again hosted the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships—ending eighteen days before the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.[117]

Club Sport League Venue
Spokane Shock Arena Football Arena Football League Spokane Arena
Spokane Indians Baseball Northwest League (Eastern Division) Avista Stadium
Spokane Chiefs Ice hockey Western Hockey League (U.S. Division) Spokane Arena
Spokane Shine Soccer Women's Premier Soccer League (Pacific – North Division) Joe Albi Stadium


  The Review Building

Spokane is served by a variety of print media. Newspaper service includes its only major daily newspaper, The Spokesman-Review,[119] as well as other more specialized publications including the weekly alternative newspaper, The Pacific Northwest Inlander, the bi-weekly business journal, The Spokane Journal of Business,[120], the student-run The Gonzaga Bulletin, a monthly newspaper for parents, Kids newspaper, and the monthly GLBT newsmagazine, Q View Northwest. Spokane 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.

According to Arbitron, Spokane is the 94th largest radio market in the United States with 526,900 listeners aged 12 and over.[121] Twenty-eight AM and FM radio stations broadcast in Spokane. Spokane has one low power (LPFM) community radio station — KYRS-LP. KYRS serves the Spokane area with progressive perspectives, providing programming to diverse communities and unserved or under-served groups.

Spokane is the 73rd largest television market in the United States, accounting for 0.372% of the total TV households in the United States.[122] Spokane has six television stations representing the major commercial networks and public television. The city 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 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, signing on the air on December 20, 1952), KAYU 28 (FOX), KSPS-TV 7 (PBS), and KCDT-TV 26 (PBS operating out of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho).

  Government and politics

  Spokane City Hall

The City of Spokane operates under a mayor–council form of government, also referred to as a "strong mayor".[123] Under the strong mayor form of government, there are two distinct branches of government: the executive (mayor) and the legislative (city council).[124] The city council sets the policy direction for the city and has seven members plus the city council president.[125] The mayor, as the chief executive officer for the City of Spokane, is in charge of operating city government and implementing the policies developed by the city council.

In 2011, David Condon was elected mayor of Spokane, taking office on the last business day of the year. The previous mayor was Mary Verner (2007–2011). On December 6, 2005, Verner's predecessor, James "Jim" West was recalled from office after the local newspaper questioned his ethics. The story attracted national attention, and was the subject of a PBS Frontline documentary.

  Spokane County Courthouse

Federally, Spokane is part of Washington's 5th congressional district, represented by Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers, elected in 2004. The state's senior member of the United States Senate is Democrat Patty Murray, elected in 1992. The state's junior member of the United States Senate is Democrat Maria Cantwell, elected in 2000. The Governor of Washington is Democrat Christine Gregoire, elected in 2004.[126]

The City of Spokane favored Barack Obama over John McCain by 60 percent to 37 percent.[127] Spokane's most prominent politician, former Democratic Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tom Foley 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.[128] This was one of the few times United States voters have turned out a sitting Speaker of the House, the first time since the 1860s. 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.[129][130]


  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 Spokane Falls and 6 branch libraries.[131] Special collections include Northwest history, genealogy, Washington state, and Spokane County government documents.[132]

Spokane Public Schools (District 81) is the largest public school system in Spokane and the second largest in the state, serving roughly 30,000 students in 5 high schools, 6 middle schools, and 34 elementary schools.[133] Other public school districts in Spokane include the Mead School District. A variety of state-approved private elementary and secondary schools augment the public school system.

Spokane is home to many higher education institutions. They include the private universities, Gonzaga and Whitworth, and the public Community Colleges of Spokane system as well as an ITT Tech and University of Phoenix campus. Gonzaga University and Law School was founded by the Jesuits in 1887.[134] Whitworth was founded in 1890 and is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.[135] While Spokane is one of the larger cities in the United States 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, just adjacent to downtown and across the Spokane River from the Gonzaga campus.[136] Washington State University Spokane is WSU's health sciences campus and houses the school's College of Nursing and College of Pharmacy in addition to a four-year medical school branch in collaboration with the University of Washington.[137] 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. An international branch campus of the Mukogawa Women's University, the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute, is located in Spokane.[138]


  Deaconess Medical Center


Spokane is the hub for medical services in the Inland Northwest. Six major hospitals are located in Spokane, four of which are full service facilities.[139] The region's healthcare needs are served primarily by non-profit Seattle-based Providence Health & Services and for-profit Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, who run the two biggest hospitals in Spokane, Sacred Heart Medical Center (Spokane), and Deaconess Medical Center, respectively. The two hospitals, along with a majority of Spokane's major health care facilities are located on Spokane's Lower-South Hill, just south of downtown. The close proximity of the hospitals, doctors' offices, and specialized clinics scattered around this area, form what is known as the "Medical District" of Spokane.

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 Spokane Valley. One of the twenty Shriners Hospitals in the United States is also located in Spokane.[140] One of Washington's two state psychiatric hospitals, Eastern State Hospital is located in Medical Lake.


  Roads and highways

Spokane's streets use a street grid that is oriented to the four cardinal directions. Generally in Spokane, 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. With over 40,000 vehicles per day Average Daily Traffic from Interstate 90 north to the US 2 – US 395 junction, North Division is Spokane's busiest corridor.[141]

  I-90 descending Sunset Hill into Spokane

Spokane is primarily served by Interstate 90, which runs east–west from Seattle, through downtown Spokane, and eastward through Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, and onward to Coeur d'Alene and Missoula.[142] 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.

Over the past decade, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has aggressively improved local highways to keep up with the region's growth and to try to prevent congestion problems that plague many larger cities around the country. The WSDOT is currently constructing the North Spokane Corridor. When completed, the corridor will be a 10.5-mile (16.9 km) long 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 Wandermere Golf Course.[143]

  Public transportation

  Spokane Intermodal Center

Before the influx of automobiles, people got around by using Spokane's streetcar system, the Spokane and Inland Empire Railroad. Many of the older side streets in Spokane still have visible streetcar rails embedded in them, as they were never removed. Streetcar service was reduced due to declining ridership beginning in 1922, and by August 1936, all streetcar lines had been abandoned or converted to motor buses.[144]

Today, mass transportation throughout the Spokane area is provided by the Spokane Transit Authority (STA). STA currently operates approximately 156 buses and has a service area that covers roughly 248 square miles (640 km2).[145] A large percentage of STA bus routes originate from the central hub, the STA Plaza, in downtown Spokane. Passengers who stop at The Plaza can transfer to virtually any other Spokane Transit route. Talk of constructing a rapid-transit system began in earnest in the late-1990s, with a light rail system being a preferred option to bus rapid transit.[146]

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.[147] Through service is a legacy of the old Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway trackage.


Spokane, eastern Washington and northern Idaho are served by Spokane International Airport at Geiger Field (GEG). Spokane International Airport is the second largest airport in the state of Washington and is recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration as a small hub.[148] The airport is located 5 miles (8.0 km) west of downtown Spokane and is approximately a 10-minute drive away. Spokane International Airport is served by six airlines and two air cargo carriers.[148] The international airport 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.[149]

Felts Field is a general aviation airport serving the Spokane area and is located in east Spokane along the Spokane River. Felts Field served as Spokane's primary airport until Spokane International Airport was built.

  Monroe Street Dam


The City of Spokane provides municipal water, wastewater management, and solid waste management.[150] Spokane operates Washington's only waste-to-energy plant, as well as two solid waste transfer stations in the Spokane area as part of the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System, a collaboration between the City of Spokane and Spokane County.[151] Electricity generated by the waste-to-energy plant is used to operate the facility with excess energy being sold to Puget Sound Energy.[151] Natural gas and electricity is provided by Avista Utilities, while CenturyLink and Comcast provide television, internet, and telephone service.

  Sister cities

Spokane has four sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International: [152]

  • Japan Nishinomiya, Japan – since September 1961 (Spokane's first sister city)
  • South Korea Jecheon, South Korea
  • China Jilin, People's Republic of China
  • Republic of Ireland Limerick, Republic of Ireland

  See also


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