It starts out with plains framed against mountains. Next, a bright-green locomotive glides across red roller-coaster railroad tracks until it plunges out of view. And then, breaking the boundaries of the mural, a phoenix rises into the sky.
Three years ago, 40 community members and students from the nearby On Track Academy painted this mural on a wall in the center of Hillyard, the iconic northeast Spokane neighborhood roughly bounded by Francis and Garnet avenues and Crestline and Havana streets. In a single image, the artwork sums up Hillyard's past, present and future.
Start with the rise of Hillyard's industrial upbringing, caked in sweat and factory grease, seared in locomotive steam. Then comes the loss — the void left when the railroad stopped running and the factory jobs withered away. For decades, Hillyard has looked poverty and unemployment in the eye. Residents have heard all the jokes about busted cars, barking dogs and weed-choked lawns. But Hillyard stares down the punch lines and condescension. People proudly wear would-be slurs dismissing residents as "Hillyard-ites" from "Dogtown." This is who we are, Hillyard declares. Deal with it.
Finally, there's hope that the phoenix will rise. Yes, hopes for revitalization have been dashed before. ("Hillyard is poised for a comeback," a Spokesman-Review article began in 1985.) Now, with the completion of the North Spokane Corridor on the horizon, and investment in development and education drawn on the maps, Hillyard's future feels less like a hope and more like a plan.
Appropriately, the route to Hillyard's future leads straight through its past. Transportation and manufacturing made Hillyard a century ago, and transportation and manufacturing are set to remake it again. ♦
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