Spokane, Washington

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City of Spokane
Downtown Spokane as seen from Palisades Park looking east
Downtown Spokane as seen from Palisades Park looking east
Official logo of City of Spokane
Nickname(s): The Lilac City
Motto: Near Nature. Near Perfect.
Location of Spokane inSpokane County and Washington
Location of Spokane in
Spokane County and Washington
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
 • 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 (2013[4]) 210,721
 • Rank US: 102nd
 • Density 3,526.0/sq mi (1,361.4/km2)
 • Urban 387,847 (US: 96th)
 • Metro 535,724 (US: 100th)
 • CSA 679,989 (US: 71st)
Demonym Spokanite
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 509
FIPS code 53-67000
GNIS feature ID 1512683[6]
Website www.spokanecity.org

Spokane (pronunciation: Listeni/spˈkæn/ spoh-KAN) is a city located in the northwestern United States in the state of Washington. It is located on the Spokane River in eastern Washington, 92 miles (148 km) south of the Canadian border, approximately 20 miles (32 km) from the Washington–Idaho border, and 232 miles (373 km) east of Seattle.

With a population of 208,916, according to the 2010 Census, Spokane is the second largest city in Washington and the 102nd largest city in the United States. It is also the largest in Spokane County of which it is the county seat and principal city of the Spokane Metropolitan Statistical Area (which is coterminous with Spokane County) and the Inland Northwest region. The county had 471,221 and the Spokane–Coeur d'Alene Combined Statistical Area had about 609,000 residents.

David Thompson explored the Spokane 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 and the center of the fur trade between the Rockies and the Cascades for 16 years. Completion of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1881 brought major settlement to the Spokane area. 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.

The city of Spokane (then known as "Spokan [sic] Falls") was settled in 1871 and officially incorporated as a city in 1881. Its name is drawn from the Native American tribe known as the Spokane, which means "Children of the Sun" in Salishan. 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. 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.


 Lithograph depicting the Spokane falls in 1888
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 (which means "children of the sun" or "sun people" in Salishan[7]), are believed to be either their direct descendants, or descendants of tribes from the Great Plains.[8] When asked by early white explorers, the tribe said their ancestors came from "up North."[8]

Early in the 19th century, the Northwest Fur Company sent two white fur trappers west of the Rocky Mountains to search for fur.[9] 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.[10]

Trading post[edit]

The explorer-geographer David Thompson, working as head of the North West Company's Columbia Department, became the first European to explore the Inland Northwest.[11] 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, he sent out trappers, Jacques Raphael Finlay and Finan McDonald to the Spokane River to build a fur trading post in eastern Washington that would trade with the local Spokane and Colville Indians.[11] It was established at the confluence of the Little Spokane and Spokane, becoming the first long-term European settlement in Washington state.[11] Known as the Spokane House, or simply "Spokane", it was in operation from 1810 to 1826.[7] Operations were run by the British North West Company and later the Hudson's Bay Company, and was the center of the fur trade between the Rockies and the Cascades for 16 years. When the latter business 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.[12]

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 Battle of Four Lakes and the Battle of Spokane Plains. Hostilities between the natives ceased and this opened the inter-mountain valley of the Pacific Northwest to the safe settlement of white people.[13]

American settlement[edit]

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 as large influxes of American settlers began arriving by the Oregon Trail. The first American settlers in the present-day city, squatters J.J. Downing and S.R. Scranton, built a cabin and established a claim at Spokane Falls in 1871.[14] Together they built a small sawmill on a claim near the south bank of the Spokane Falls.[14] 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.[15] 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.[15][a] Amid many delays in construction and uncertainty over the completion of the railroad, Matheney sold his interest in the claim to Glover.[17] Glover confidently held onto his claim and became a successful business owner as well as the "Father of Spokane."

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.[18] By 1881, the Northern Pacific Railway was completed, bringing major European settlement to the area.[19] 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.[20][b] The marketing campaigns of transportation companies with affordable fertile land to sell along their trade routes lured many settlers into the region.[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] In time the city came to be known as the "Capital of the Inland Empire" and the heart of a vast tributary region.

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 triggered an influx of prospectors. The Inland Empire erupted with numerous mining rushes from 1883 to the late 19th century.[24] Mining and smelting emerged as a major stimulus to Spokane. At the onset of the initial 1883 gold rush in the Coeur d'Alene Mining District, Spokane became the outfitter of choice among prospectors due to the area's proximity, lower prices, and convenience of being able to obtain everything "from a horse to a frying pan."[25] It would keep this status for subsequent rushes in the region due to its trade center status and accessibility to railroad infrastructure.[26][b]

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.[27] Due to technical problems with a pump station, there was no water pressure in the city when the fire started.[28] 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. As a result of the fire and its aftermath, 32 blocks of Spokane's downtown were destroyed and one person was killed.[27]

Despite this catastrophe, Spokane continued to grow; the fire set the stage for a dramatic building boom.[22][d] After The Great Fire of 1889 and the rebuilding of the downtown, the city was reincorporated under the present name of "Spokane" in 1891.[20] 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 an important rail shipping and transportation hub for the Inland Northwest region because of its location between mining and farming areas (namely the Silver Valley and Palouse).[30][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][32]

20th century[edit]

The expansion and growth of Spokane abruptly stopped in the 1910s and was followed by a period of population decline.[33] 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.[33]

During this time of stagnation there became unrest among the area's 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.[34] 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.[35] 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.[35] 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.[35] 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.[36]

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.[37] The population explosion and the building of homes, railroads, and mines in northern Idaho and southern British Columbia fueled the industry.[37] 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.[38] 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.[39][e] 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.[41]

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, an organization that sought to revitalize downtown Spokane.[42] 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.[43] 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.[44][45] 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.[46] The late 1970s was a period of growth for Spokane.[47]

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.[48] The period of decline for the city lasted into the 1990's and was also marked by a loss of many steady family-wage jobs in the manufacturing sector.[41] 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.[48]

21st century[edit]

Spokane's skywalk network is among the nation's most extensive
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.[41] 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 branch. Although the city faces challenges such as a scarcity of high paying jobs, pockets of poverty, areas of high crime, and a sense of doubt regarding aspects of city government, there is an air of optimism for the city's future.[41]

The opening of the River Park Square Mall in 1999 sparked a major downtown rebirth that included the building of the Spokane Arena and expansion of the Spokane Convention Center.[41] 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).[49][50] 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.[41]



Spokane is located on the Spokane River in eastern Washington, about 20 miles (32 km) from Idaho, 110 miles (180 km) south of the Canadian border and 232 miles (373 km) east of Seattle, and 277 miles (446 km) southwest of Calgary.[51] 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.[52] According to the United States 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
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 and rolling hills 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.[57]

Spokane is at an elevation of 1,843 feet (562 m) above sea level.[58] 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).[59]


Spokane has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dsb),[60] a rare climate due to its elevation and significant winter precipitation, precluding a semi-arid climate classification; Spokane, however is adjacent to and sometimes even classified as a "cool-summer Mediterranean climate" (Csb) as well because the average temperature for the coldest month is just over 27 °F (−3 °C).[61]

The area is typified by a hot, arid climate during the summer months and a cold, snowy, and moist climate in the winter.[53] 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.[62] Daily temperature ranges are large during the summer, approaching, and often exceeding 30 °F (17 °C), and small during the winter, with a range just above 10 °F (5.6 °C). December, the coldest month, averages 27.4 °F (−2.6 °C), while July, the warmest month, averages 69.8 °F (21.0 °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] though on average, temperatures above 90 °F (32 °C) occur on 19 days and below 0 °F (−18 °C) on 3.5 days annually.[63]

Spokane's location between the Cascades Range to the west and 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.[64] As a result of the rain shadow effect of the Cascade Mountains, the Spokane area also has less than half the rainfall of Seattle. The average annual precipitation in the Spokane area is 16.5 inches (420 mm), whereas the Seattle area receives 37 inches (940 mm) annually.[64] The most precipitation occurs in December, and summer is the driest time of the year.[62] 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.[64]


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

Spokane's 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.[45][67][68]

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 city's public facilities, including City Hall, Riverfront Park (site of Expo '74), 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 featured in the city's seal, 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 neighborhood

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 Craftsman styles.[68] The area houses the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. In northeast Spokane, the Hillyard neighborhood came about due to James J. Hill's Great Northern Railway yard, strategically placed outside Spokane city limits to avoid "burdensome taxes."[29] 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 former town's houses were built to house railroad workers, many immigrant laborers working in the local yard, who gave Hillyard an independent, blue-collar character. Hillyard still caters to new arrivals, becoming a popular home for Spokane's growing Russian, Ukrainian, and Southeast Asian communities.[29][69]


Spokane has an average Walk Score of 45, indicating most errands require a car and an average Transit Score of 36.[70] The Spokane area has experienced the negative effects of 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.[71] It is a matter of debate whether the completion of the North Spokane Corridor will exacerbate this situation further by increasing mobility.[72]


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

Surrounding communities[edit]

Metropolitan area[edit]

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 and its surrounding communities. Spokane Valley, Medical Lake, Cheney, Airway Heights, Nine Mile Falls, Deer Park, Mead, Millwood, and Liberty Lake are included in this metropolitan region. As of the 2010 census, the region had a population of 471,221.[73] 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, Rathdrum, and Hayden. The urban form of the agglomeration largely follows the path of Interstate 90 between the two cities. Both the Spokane and Coeur d'Alene Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) have been merged into one Combined Statistical Area (CSA) by the Office of Management and Budget but still remain distinct statistical entities.[74] The leadership of the city of Coeur d'Alene has repeatedly resisted joining the Spokane MSA due to their concerns of diminishing or losing the city's image as a scenic resort town. The Spokane–Coeur d'Alene CSA had around 609,000 residents in 2010.[74]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 350
1890 19,922 5,592.0%
1900 36,848 85.0%
1910 104,402 183.3%
1920 104,437 0.0%
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%
Est. 2013 210,721 0.9%
U.S. Decennial Census[76]
2013 Estimate[77]

According to the 2000 census, 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.

At the 2010 census,[2] 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 86.7% White, 2.3% African American, 2.0% Native American, 2.6% Asian, 0.6% Pacific Islander, 1.3% from other races, and 4.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.0% of the population.

There were 87,271 households out 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. 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. 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 groups 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.[78] 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.[79] The city serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane and the Mormon Spokane Washington Temple District .

Spokane has been criticized for its lack of diversity and multicultural offerings,[80][81] however, the city has become more diverse in recent decades. Peoples from countries in the former Soviet Union (especially Russians and Ukrainians) comprise a comparatively large demographic in Spokane and Spokane County, the result of a large influx of migrants and their families after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.[69][82] According to the 2000 Census, people of Russian or Ukrainian ancestry in Spokane County was reported to be 7,700 (4,900 residing in the city of Spokane) which amounts to two percent of the county.[82] Among the fastest growing demographics in Spokane is the Pacific Islander ethnic group, which is estimated to be third largest in the county after the Russian and Ukrainian community and Latinos.[83] Spokane was once home to a sizable Asian community centered in what was once Spokane's Chinatown, where the Convention District is today. The actual composition of the "Chinatown" community was more Japanese than Chinese and existed from the early days of the city until 1974.[84] Like in many western railway towns, the community started off as an encampment for migrant laborers working on building the railroads. The community thrived until the 1940s, after which the community population decreased and became integrated, losing its Asian character; urban blight and the preparations leading up to Expo '74 led to its eventual demolition.[84]


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.[31] 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 mineral rich Coeur d'Alene, Colville and Kootenay districts.[85] The area is considered to be one of the most productive mining districts in North America.[86]

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 influence in the economic development of Spokane.[37] As with the mining industry, the lumber industry in the city contributed to the economy by the means of outfitting the lumberjacks and millmen working in the hundreds of mills along the railroads, rivers, and lakes of northern Washington and Idaho.[87] 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.[41] This setting supports many vineyards and microbreweries that reside in the Spokane area.[88] By the early 20th century Spokane was primarily a commercial center rather than an industrial center.[89] 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.[90]

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.[90] Gold mining company, Gold Reserve and Fortune 1000 company, Potlatch Corporation, which operates as a real estate investment trust is headquartered in the city proper.[91][92] Mining, 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.[48] Spokane is trying to reinvent itself into a more service-oriented economy in the face of a less prominent manufacturing sector, particularly as a medical and biotechnology center.[41] Fortune 1000 technology company, Itron is headquartered in the area.[93] Other companies with head offices in the Spokane area include technology company Key Tronic, hotelier Red Lion Hotels Corporation, and microcar maker Commuter Cars.[94][95]

The top five employers in Spokane are the State of Washington, Spokane Public Schools, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children's Hospital, the 92nd Air Refueling Wing, and Spokane County.[96] The largest military facility and employer, the 92d Air Refueling Wing is stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base near Airway Heights. 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.[97] 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.

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.[98] Innovate Washington, a business incubator seeks to help and develop Spokane companies for success.[99] 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.[100][101] In an effort to further attract companies, area community and business leaders created the "Terabyte Triangle", a sizable area downtown with high bandwidth fiber optic infrastructure in many buildings and wireless connectivity.[102]


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

Life in Spokane is heavily influenced by its climate and geographical location. Spokane is close to dozens of lakes and rivers for swimming, boating, rafting, and fishing, as well as mountains for skiing, hiking, biking and sightseeing according to CNN.[103] 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.[104] 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.[105][106] 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. The Mobius Science Center and the related Mobius Kid's Museum in downtown Spokane seek to provide the public with new and innovative ways to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math and allow youth to explore science, culture, and the arts through a hands-on experience.[107]

Arts and theater[edit]

The Fox Theater in Spokane's Davenport Arts District
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 Davenport District is also home to many art galleries as well as some of Spokane's main performing arts venues. The Metropolitan Performing Arts Center was restored in 1988 and renamed Bing Crosby Theater in 2006 to honor the former Spokanite.[108] The Fox Theater, which has been restored to its original 1931 Art Deco state, is the home of the Spokane Symphony.

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.[109] The First Friday Artwalk, which occurs the first Friday of every month, is dedicated to local vendors and performers displaying art around Downtown.[110]

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, and critics have identified a need for a legitimate all-ages venue for music performances.[111] The Spokane Symphony presents a full season of classical music, and the Spokane Jazz Orchestra, a full season of jazz music.[112] 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."[113]

Theater is provided by Spokane's only resident professional company, the Interplayers Ensemble.[114] Theater is also provided by Spokane Civic Theatre and several amateur community theaters and smaller groups. The INB Performing Arts Center is often host to large traveling exhibitions, shows, and tours.

Parks and recreation[edit]

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.[115] 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.[116][117] Today, Spokane has a system of over 87 parks totaling 4,100 acres (17 km2).[118] 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.

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.[119] The park has views of the Spokane Falls, and holds a number of civic attractions, including a Skyride that is a rebuilt gondola lift 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, the "Ice Palace", during the winter months).[119] The park hosts family entertainment and events such as the Bloomsday Post-Race Celebration, Spokane Hoopfest, First Night Spokane, and outdoor concerts and other community activities. The park also includes the historic, hand-carved Riverfront Park Looff carousel created in 1909 by Charles I. D. Looff.[119] 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.

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

In addition to parks, 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 Sontag Park in west Spokane to the east shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.[120] 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. Other trails include the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes and Columbia Plateau Trail. There are also many natural areas where outdoors activities can be enjoyed close by. In the summer, it has long been popular to visit North Idaho's "Lake Country", such as Lake Coeur d'Alene, Lake Pend Oreille, or Priest Lake or one of the other nearby bodies of water and beaches to fish, swim, hike, kayak, golf, or sail.[41][121] A park of a different sort, the Silverwood Theme Park just north of Coeur d'Alene also draws large crowds of area residents during the warm summer months.[122] 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.[123] Mt. Spokane has trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and dog sledding.[124]

Events and activities[edit]

Spokane is home to annual events and attractions that draw people from the surrounding area. The Lilac Bloomsday Run, held in summer 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.[125] Also in May is the Lilac Festival which honors the military, celebrates youth, and showcases the region.[126] Spokane's nickname, the "Lilac City," is in reference to the flowers that have flourished since their introduction to the area in the early 20th century.[127] In June the city hosts Spokane Hoopfest, which claims to be the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world.[128] 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 different foods and enjoy free live music concerts featuring local, regional, and national recording artists in Riverfront Park.[129]

Runners participating in Spokane's annual Lilac Bloomsday Run
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.[130] The Spokane Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, which is held every November, features contemporary, independent films of interest to the GLBT community.[131]

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.[132] Japan Week is held in April and celebrates the sister-city relationship with Nishinomiya, Hyogo, demonstrating the many commonalities shared between the two cities.[133] Students from the Spokane campus of Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute, Gonzaga, Whitworth, and other area schools organize an array of Japanese cultural events. Spokane was once home to a sizable Japanese community centered in what was once Spokane's "Chinatown."[134] The Spokane Pride Parade held each June draws gays, lesbians, and others in celebration of the value of diversity.[135]


The Spokane Arena sports venue
The Spokane Arena

Spokane's professional and semi-professional sports teams include the Spokane Indians in Minor League Baseball, Spokane Shock in arena football, and Spokane Chiefs in junior ice hockey.[136] Collegiate sports in Spokane focus on the local teams such as the Gonzaga Bulldogs that compete in the West Coast Conference and the Whitworth Pirates as well as other regional teams including the Washington State Cougars, Eastern Washington Eagles, and the Idaho Vandals.[136]

The Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena is the city's premier sports venue. In the years since the Spokane Arena opened, it along with the city of Spokane 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.[137] Four years later in 2002, the city hosted the 2002 Skate America figure skating competition[138] and then the 2007 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in the Spokane Arena.[139] The latter 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.[140] 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.[139]

Club Sport League Venue
Spokane Indians Baseball Northwest League (Eastern Division) Avista Stadium
Spokane Shock Arena Football Arena Football League Spokane Arena
Spokane Chiefs Ice hockey Western Hockey League (U.S. Division) Spokane Arena


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.[141][142] More specialized publications including the weekly alternative newspaper, The Pacific Northwest Inlander,[143] the bi-weekly business journal, The Spokane Journal of Business.[144] as well as the student-run The Gonzaga Bulletin, a monthly newspaper for parents, Kids newspaper, and the monthly GLBT newsmagazine, Q View Northwest. 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.

According to Arbitron, Spokane is the 94th largest radio market in the United States with 532,100 listeners aged 12 and over.[145] There are 28 AM and FM radio stations broadcast in Spokane.[146] The most listened to five stations are KKZX-FM (classic rock), KQNT-AM (news/talk), KXLY-FM (country), KISC-FM (adult contemporary), and KZZU-FM (Hot AC).[147] Spokane's primary sources of non-commercial and community radio include Spokane's NPR-affiliate station KPBX-FM and KYRS, a full-power radio station that provides its service area with progressive perspectives, providing programming to diverse communities and unserved or under-served groups.[148]

Spokane is the 73rd largest television market in the United States, accounting for 0.366% of the total TV households in the United States.[149] Spokane has six television stations representing the major commercial networks and public television.[150] 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 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, 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).[150]

Government and politics[edit]

The Art Deco City Hall building
Spokane City Hall

The City of Spokane operates under a mayor−council form of government, also referred to as a "strong mayor."[151] Under the strong mayor form of government, there are two distinct branches of government: the executive (mayor) and the legislative (city council).[151] In 2011, David Condon was elected mayor of Spokane as a non-partisan candidate, taking office on the last business day of the year.[152] The previous mayor was Mary Verner, who succeeded the recalled James "Jim" West. Spokane voters haven't re-elected a mayor since 1973, when incumbent David H. Rodgers was granted a second term. 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.[153][154]

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

In Washington state, Spokane is the county seat of Spokane County, which it wrested from Cheney in 1886.[155][156] The Governor of Washington is Democrat Jay Inslee, elected in 2012.[157] Federally, Spokane is part of Washington's 5th congressional district, and has been represented by Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers since 2004.[158] This district and Washington state are represented nationally in the Senate by Democrat Patty Murray and Democrat Maria Cantwell.[158] 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 52.2 to 47.9 percent but opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage 44.1 to 55.9 percent.[159]

Spokane and arguably Washington's most prominent politician is Tom Foley, a Spokane native and former Democratic Speaker of the House who 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.[160][161] Foley's historic loss for re-election was the first time United States voters have turned out a sitting Speaker of the House since 1860.[160]


Crime rates (2012)
Crime type Rate*
Homicide: 13
Robbery: 537
Aggravated assault: 738
Total Violent crime: 1,369
Burglary: 3,827
Larceny-theft: 12,600
Motor vehicle theft: 2,095
Arson: 44
Total Property crime: 18,522
* 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) is 64.8. This is higher than the Washington state average of 38.3 in 2012; 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.[162] Nationally, Spokane's crime rate is also higher than average in both violent and property crime, having a rate higher than 98% of communities in the United States.[163]

Data shows that most crimes reported in the city tend to be focused around the downtown city center and its surrounding environs.[163] Half of all property crimes are localized in about 6.5 percent of the city.[164] Property crime is of particular concern in Spokane; an individual in Spokane has a one in 14 chance of becoming a victim of burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, or arson.[163] In regard to the most common property crime in the nation, auto theft, Spokane had the fourth-highest rate in the United States in 2010 and 2011 according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.[164] Local and regional law enforcement agencies continually try new strategies, techniques, and technologies to address this issue. The transition of the Spokane Police Department to a community policing, precinct model has been successful since its introduction downtown and has been expanded citywide.[165]


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.[166] Special collections focus on Inland Pacific Northwest history and include reference books, periodicals, maps, photographs, and other archival materials such as state and county government documents.[167]

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 six high schools, six middle schools, and 34 elementary schools.[168] 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.[169]

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 was founded by the Italian-born priest, Joseph Cataldo and the Jesuits in 1887.[170] Whitworth was founded in 1890 and is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.[171] 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 in the University District, just adjacent to downtown and across the Spokane River from the Gonzaga campus.[172][173] Washington State University Spokane is WSU's health sciences campus and houses the school's College of Medical Sciences, College of Nursing, and College of Pharmacy.[174] 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.[175] An international branch campus of the Mukogawa Women's University, the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute, is located in Spokane.[176]


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


The hub for medical services in the Inland Northwest, the Spokane area has six major hospitals, four of which are full service facilities.[177] 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, Sacred Heart Medical Center, and Deaconess Medical Center, respectively.[178] 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. 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 Veteran's 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 United States is also located in Spokane.[179] One of Washington's two state psychiatric hospitals, Eastern State Hospital is located 15 miles (24 km) away in Medical Lake.[180]


Roads and highways[edit]

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. Division Street divides the city into East and West while Sprague Avenue splits the city into North and South.[181] 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.[182]

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.[183] 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.[183]

Over the past decade, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has 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 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 the Wandermere Golf Course.[184]

Public transportation[edit]

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. Many 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 lines had been abandoned or converted to motor buses.[185]

Today, mass transportation throughout the Spokane area is provided by the Spokane Transit Authority (STA). The STA currently operates a fleet of 156 buses and has a service area that covers roughly 248 square miles (640 km2) and reaches 85 percent of the county's population.[186] 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 connect to nearly any other Spokane Transit route.

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.[187] Through service is a legacy of BNSF Railway's old Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway trackage.[188] 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.[188]


Aerial of Downtown Spokane on approach from the airport
Aerial view of Spokane looking east

Spokane, eastern Washington, and northern Idaho's primary commercial airport is Spokane International Airport at Geiger Field (GEG). 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.[189] The 4,800-acre airport is located 5 miles (8.0 km) west of downtown Spokane and is approximately a 10-minute drive away. The international airports 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.[190]

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 commercial air traffic was redirected to Geiger Field after World War II.[190]


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.[191] 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.[192] Electricity generated by the waste-to-energy plant is used to operate the facility with excess energy being sold to Puget Sound Energy.[192] Spokane draws its water from the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer; this 370 square miles (958 km2) "sole source aquifer" is the only water supply for Spokane County in Washington and Kootenai and Bonner counties in Idaho.[193] Natural gas and electricity is 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 serves to generate the electricity necessary to operate the municipal water supply's pressure pumps.[194] The power generated in excess of that used by Spokane's Water Department is sold to Avista Utilities.[194] The Upper Falls and Monroe Street dams are owned and operated by Avista Utilities, and have respective generation capacities of 10 and 15 MW.[195] The Monroe Street Hydroelectric Development site has the distinction of being the oldest hydroelectric generation facility in Washington.[195]

Notable people[edit]

Sister cities[edit]

Spokane has four current sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International: [196]

See also[edit]


^[a] Unbeknownst to them, the Spokane Valley was the only area within 200 miles that could provide passage to the Inland Northwest through the Rockies at a reasonable grade.[15]
^[b] 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."[197]
^[c] 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 ..."[198]
^[d] The initial rebuilding came in large part from the infusion of investment from Dutch bankers.[199]
^[e] 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.[200]


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  • Meinig, Donald W. (1993). The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Volume 2: Continental America, 1800–1867. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-05658-3. 
  • Phillips, James W. (1971). Washington State Place Names. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-95158-3. 
  • Moffatt, Riley (1996). Population History of Western U.S. Cities & Towns, 1850–1990. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-3033-2. 
  • Schmeltzer, Michael (1988). Spokane: The City and The People. Helena, Montana: American Geographic Publishing. ISBN 0-938314-53-X. 
  • Stratton, David H. (2005). Spokane and the Inland Empire: An Interior Pacific Northwest Anthology. Pullman, Washington: Washington State University Press. ISBN 978-0-87422-277-7. 

Further reading[edit]

  • 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, N.Y: 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. 

External links[edit]