Railroad baron James J. Hill steamrolled into Spokane, and said, "Let there be Hillyard." J.J. Browne and Daniel Corbin built a line out to the booming Coeur d'Alene mines and reaped a bonanza. William Nettleton got rich on West Central real estate made valuable by the entry of the railroads, and then, in some kind of bizarre poetic symmetry, fell to his death from the Great Northern High Trestle, around whose base the condos of Kendall Yards will one day cluster. The Burlington Northern Tower is a fixture of the city skyline, and a reminder of the tangled industrial rail yard that preceded Riverfront Park and once divided the city from its river. Spokane became the queen city of the Inland Empire because the bounty of the Palouse and the wealth of the Coeur d'Alenes were carried out on its rails, and goods from everywhere else came flowing in, to be distributed by wholesalers whose loading docks bellied right up to edge of the tracks.
So next time you see those freight cars gliding almost noiselessly above downtown, or puffing along the hills opposite Browne's Addition and South Hill, consider the legacy of the railroads. That lonesome whistle you hear late at night -- that's the distant echo of a town being born. -- Suzanne Schreiner
Best Place To Find a Good Five-Cent Cigar & r & Some call them "ghost signs." They were the billboards of an era before Ackerley and Clear Channel. You can see them still, though often only faintly, these advertising murals on the old bricks of downtown buildings. Bear Brand Hosiery -- "Fit for all the family." Albers Rolled Oats. La Azora cigars -- "Very Mild." There were wholesale grocers by the bunch: Roundup Grocers, Ralph S. Gordon & amp; Co., McClintock-Trunkey. Lots of "Single-Room Occupancy" opportunities for working men, too: One hotel offered rooms for "50 cents per day and up," while the more upscale Globe Hotel next door advertised "Steam Heat, Hot and Cold Water in every room, Private Baths and Telephones" starting at 75 cents a night.
But let's talk about cigars, back in that storied time before all the no-smoking tomfoolery. Thomas Marshall (Woodrow Wilson's otherwise forgotten vice president) famously said, "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar." Most stogies sold for 10 cents at the time, but Henry George cigars went for just a nickel (as the huge ad behind the Globe and on the wall of Harmon Auto Glass proclaims).
Cigars, SROs and dry goods are a window to a time when even ads were committed to brick and mortar. A time when Spokane, along with the rest of the country, was becoming part of a national economy. When bacon might come from Chicago and breakfast cereal from Battle Ground, Mich., rather than from farmers in the same county. When a "boughten" dress from some distant place was a thing of prestige. Acting as a kind of consumer pentimento, the faded images of old ads on old bricks are blurred by time but still visible. Which is probably more than you'll see of any of our billboards a hundred years from now. -- Suzanne Scheiner
Best Reason to Keep Driving Once You Hit Spokane & r & There's nothing like that moment when, after a mind-numbing drive across Washington, you crest that peak on the interstate and suddenly see all of Spokane laid out below you. After so much nothingness, the Lilac City looks like Gotham itself. It's a very welcome sight. That said, there's also nothing like that moment when, looking for your downtown exit, you glimpse that massive and totally spooky "King of Glory" mural on the back side of the St. Claire Apartments on Howard Street. The rest of the city looks so quaint and working-class. Then there's that freakish monarch blasting out of the side of the building, his eyes ablaze, riding what appears to be an epileptic stallion.
Painted in 2000 by Todd Berget and Darien Greason -- who were aping a work by popular Christian artist Pat Marvenko Smith -- it's meant to depict a passage from the Book of Revelation, in case you were wondering. That's God (or Jesus? Revelation isn't exactly the clearest of books) riding down from Heaven, his "rope dipped in blood," his mouth holding a "sharp sword with which to strike down the nations ... [and] rule them with an iron scepter." As if that's not clear enough: "He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty."
"God Almighty" is right.
Uh, welcome to Spokane. Heh heh. Stay awhile. -- Joel Smith
Best Portal to Our Imperialist Roots & r & Nigh on 107 years ago, Ensign John Robert Monaghan, a Chewelah native and Annapolis graduate, was cut down in his 26th year by "overwhelming numbers of the savage" natives of the Samoan island chain. In 1906, a statue of Monaghan was erected at Riverside and Monroe, commemorating the sacrifice of his life to save a comrade. Sounds nice, but the Monaghans were stupid rich and the thing was made at a time when both expansionist ideologies and Social Darwinism were at their peak.
So how much truth is there to the statue? The bas-relief on the front depicts Monaghan, service revolver in hand, being cut down by a mass of men in leaf skirts. The men, though, look more like slaves than Samoans. That is, more black than of Polynesian descent. Depicting a completely incorrect race is probably due to early-century ignorance, but it brings up an unintentionally interesting question: Who was Monaghan fighting?
Well, Samoans, literally -- but he was really battling the Germans. The fight over Samoa wasn't for any notion of democracy or freedom; we wanted the islands to refuel our coal-powered ships. So did Germany. (So, to a lesser extent, did Britain.) We wanted, you know, to colonize the place. Unfortunately, we lost big time, which is probably why there's no mention on the statue of why Monaghan died, or what he died in service of.
In case that remains unclear, he died in service to nascent American imperial power. He died establishing a system of rule by proxy governments. Sounds a lot like current American policy -- except that now, 100 years later, we're way better at it. -- Luke Baumgarten
Best Civic Eyesore & r & My father has a theory about eating anchovies: They're so bad, they make everything else on your plate delicious by comparison. Well, we say the parking lots south of the Opera House are the anchovies of Spokane. Next to this Land of Asphalt Craters, the Opera House is a shimmering birthday cake. But then again, that's the problem with cars -- you have to put them somewhere once you get to your destination. As far as we know, there isn't an aesthetically pleasing way to accomplish that. Moral of the story: Hoof it, pedal or carpool when you can. Think of it as drowning the anchovies. (JM)
Best Place ot Make Your Mutt Feel Like Midas & r & Roscoe -- a basset hound/golden retriever mix -- prefers the kennel with the mural of dogs reading the paper over morning coffee. It's a perk he finds only at Paws & amp; Claws Pet Resort and Laundramutt. With generous six-foot-square cubicles, raised beds and a fenced playground for romping, Paws & amp; Claws is the hangout for Coeur d'Alene's most pampered pets -- some of whom arrive with pajamas, play clothes (and even Valium). If the latter doesn't do the trick, owner Cyndie Petillo will rock them to sleep by the fireplace. With all these perks (and modest prices), it's no surprise pet owners book early. Resort space is a precious commodity around the holidays, and summer waiting lists (!) typically grow to a dozen Fidos long. (CT)
Best Shakespearean Tragedy of a Bar
Was it fated to die from the beginning? Probably not, but this is still the most star-crossed bar in memory. Despite all those things we consider to be indicative of success -- solid beer selection, the dopest shows in Spokane, insanely passionate and dedicated ownership -- the B-Side folded on Jan. 4. Maybe there's a lesson here for prospective bar owners. Ben Cater said all he needed was more money. Joe Gallaher, who bought the place, also thinks you need karaoke and Too Slim shows. Maybe. Yet perhaps the death of the B-Side serves to underscore the belief that the lives of really good bars, like the lives of men, are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." In this case, way too short. (LB)
Best View While Doing the Warrior Pose & r & No matter how stressed we are or how pressed by deadlines, we always relax when stepping into the studio at the Radha Yoga Center in Browne's Addition. Maybe it's the unadorned simplicity of the broad wood floor and white walls. Or the light pouring through the wall of windows overlooking Latah Creek and High Bridge Park. More likely, though, it's the wisdom of the body, recognizing the room as a place of gentleness, acceptance -- attuned to its unique rhythms. Classes are offered in six-week sessions; drop-ins and workshops are also available. The guided relaxation at the end of each class is worth the price of admission all by itself. Ahhh-ohhh-ommm ... (AC)
Best Places to Pretend You're In Italy (When You're Still In Spokane) & r & Wanna get away? Do it sans suitcase; cop the feel of the old country without ever leaving the 'Kan. First, go to Cassano Grocery and get one of their uber-authentic Italian sandwiches (bonus for cured meats, tough to find in America), wrapped in paper and oozing balsamic vinegar. Then trip over to Our Lady of Lourdes and eat the thing on the steps. Nothing says "backpacking through Italy" like eating lunch hobo-style on church steps. Believe us. Then, nothing brings you back to Spokane like realizing you had to drive there. Going for extra authenticity points? Get crunked on box wine and talk metaphysics with a priest. (LB)
Best Sign That Spokane's Finally Coming Around & r & Every Sunday night, Portlanders haul children's bikes to the top of a hill overlooking the city, then bomb downtown at 40 miles an hour. Last month, hundreds of Bay Area residents converged in downtown San Francisco for a half-hour-long pillow fight, then dispersed. It's weird, wonderful stuff like this that makes living in a real city so much fun. Which is why we're so wild about CenterStage's decision to start projecting old silent movies onto the backside of the Fox Theater last fall. Tumbling out of Far West to stand with a bunch of strangers and watch Buster Keaton do pratfalls, as cars speed past on First Avenue? It's absurd and surprising. It catches you off guard -- just like a good city should. (JPS)
Best (Un?)Iintentional Tribute to Josef Stalin & r & Brilliant! Those clever folks working in the Spokane Public Schools building have found a way to make sure that their offices are never converted into condos. Using special agitprop magic not seen since the heady days of Stalinist Russia, they have built a tower of concrete entirely free from color and charm. We can only imagine the presentation made by forward-thinking architects, fresh from their tour of fun-filled Vladivostok: "Don't worry, we'll make sure that no developer in his right mind will even consider taking away your offices. Your bureaucracy will be safe here forever." School Workers Unite! (CK)
Best Proof That the Past Was More Civilized & r & Have you ever watched a homeless man relieving himself in an alley? OK, not watched, but seen him out of the corner of your eye as you walk quickly past, hoping to not get involved? It didn't use to be that way. Take a peek through the metal doors under the railroad bridge on Howard Street. (Go ahead, do it. We did. You'll be fine.) If you look in there, you'll see that now-lost tribute to common sense: a downtown public restroom. Sure, it's a little worse for wear -- and of course, the doors are chained shut -- but man, that had to be better than an alley. (CK)
Best Example of Benign Design & r & The famous Olmsted Brothers architectural team did a lot of impressive work in Spokane -- Corbin Park, Liberty Park, the Rockwood neighborhood. But the one bit of their handiwork that hits closest to home for us is the treed section of Riverside Avenue between Cedar Street and our offices near Monroe. We get a certain strange feeling whenever we head for Inlander HQ from Browne's Addition. The stretch of Riverside that precedes it, crossing over the Maple Street bridge, is chaotic, open. Bad feng shui. But walking under the trees along that wide median in the springtime or under the bell towers at Our Lady of Lourdes, we always feel weirdly happy. Even if we are going to work. (JPS)
Best Former Brickyard To Walk Your Dog In on a Moonlit Night & r & Once again, let's give it up for the Olmsted Brothers! In 1909, they designed yet another picturesque park on the site of a former brickyard at 18th and Lincoln. A mite over 13 acres, Cannon Hill Park holds remarkably true to the Olmsteds' vision even today. The unsightly hole left by the brick makers was flooded to create a lake, which answers the question of whether the rustic basalt bridge had a functional purpose or was only intended to straddle the grass. Now lawns have replaced the lake around the bridge, and the waders of long ago have been replaced by locals tossing Frisbees and pine cones to their dogs. But the pond on the east side remains, as does all of the charm. (SS)
Best Little Nicety You've Never Heard Of & r & There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but in this town, there is free coffee. And we're not just talking about the "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" stuff over at the Union Gospel. No, this free coffee is at the deli counter in Rosauers. They have been offering complimentary six-ounce cups of pretty decent Joe for the last 15 years, and somehow, this has largely remained a little secret for the folks living near the 14th Street store location. Of course, that might change now that you've read this. (CK)
Best Sleep Aid & r & As people who struggle off and on with sleeplessness, we've collected a bulging bag of soporific tricks, charms, spells and brews. We've counted our share of sheep. But nothing works indefinitely. Some nights there's nothing to do but wait it out. An insomniac friend in Browne's Addition tells us, though, she's learned to let the sound of trains at night rock her over to the Land of Nod. The rumbling chugga-chugga underpinning the high-pitched scrape of metal on metal is just like a lullaby: monotonous, tuneless, ominous. (Have you ever pondered the lyrics to "Rock-a-Bye Baby"?) And it helps to focus on a sound outside of one's own head, rather than the endless track of thoughts rattling around inside. Try it for yourself. (JM)
Best Place to Play the Sybarite & r & We hard-working, God-fearing Inlander staffers aren't accustomed to creature comforts, but we found ourselves in the lap of luxury on a recent overnight at the Coeur d'Alene Resort. It was posh. Almost too posh. Here we were in a room with 39 pillows, three telephones (one by the toilet -- gross!) and a pasture-sized bed, and we couldn't figure out how to close the drapes. They didn't move when we tugged them. The solution, it turned out, was one of the several remotes lying about the room -- the one labeled "open" and "close." We pointed it at things like the minibar and our checkbook, but it only worked on the curtains. This place should come with an instruction manual for the hedonistically challenged. (KT)
Best Place to Display Bad Public Art & r & It's a problem we've all faced: Someone you love gives you the gift of art -- their art. Their highly dubious art. The last thing you want to do is hang it on your wall, but you have to because you love them. It's called filial obligation, and it's a drag. The city of Spokane seems to knows the feeling. Unlike you, though, it has a bounty of places to display its well-intentioned yet aesthetically corrupt gifts. Take a gander at the art under the railroad bridge at Ash Street and 2nd Avenue. Its hideousness fits the sooty, exhaust-choked thoroughfare to a tee. Our city leaders may not be visionaries when it comes to traffic or urban renewal, but at least they know bad art -- and where to stick it. (CK)
Best Reason for the Creative Class To Stay Awhile & r & OK, hipsters, listen up. The ugly truth is: You cannot own property in all those trendy big cities you dream about. The star-kissed city on a hill and affordable real estate shall never meet. You say don't need to own a house, you just need to be where you can order the latest -tini drink (the zucchini-tini?), and not be met with a blank stare. Whatever. Move to San Francisco or New York -- you won't be able to afford a roach-infested closet. But in the Lilac City, you can own your garret instead of renting it! In a year, sell it for a profit, and head for the glitziest, zucchini-tini-swilling watering hole you can find -- because you'll be able to afford it. (SS)
Best Reason to Take the Route Less Taken & r & Like many who live on the South Hill, I own a very old home, and I spend lots of time every Saturday cruising down to Lowe's or Home Depot. Unlike many of my hill-dwelling brethren. though, I'm not really in a hurry to get there. That's why, instead of jumping on I-90, I frequently find myself tooling down east Sprague Avenue. East Sprague is an urban treasure with long stretches of intact, bizarre old signage. Dilapidated hotel signs go toe to toe with signs for boxing lessons and a sale on army surplus canteens. The most telling sign of all: Studio Space for Rent. Mark my words, kids: This is where the real artists will be living in five years. (CK)
Best New Urban Commode & r & We wish we were as committed as George Costanza is to rooting out all the best public restrooms in the city, but frankly we don't have the time (or the neuroses). We do, however, know a swank W.C. when we see one, and as testy as we were that Mootsy's Pizza had to briefly shut down for remodeling last fall, we now rejoice in the luxurious (and badly needed) bathroom they installed. Replete with artsy furniture and a fancy soap dispenser, and measuring in at 35 square feet, the head at Mootsy's is larger than it needs to be and way nicer than a pizza-joint bathroom ought to be. It still doesn't rival the john at the Davenport, but we make sure to wipe the seat afterward, just to keep things nice. (JPS)