Vintage Spokane

Each First Friday, Downtown Spokane and Vintage Spokane Prints are releasing a limited edition postcard featuring one of Vintage Spokane’s iconic designs of a downtown location. Postcard location is announced the Monday preceding First Friday. Only 100 will be available. Collect them all!


February | The Great Northern Clocktower

One of the few surviving remnants of the Great Northern Depot. In 1884, the Northern Pacific rail line connected Spokane to its web of routes, within a decade, local rail lines began to radiate out to surrounding areas. Completed in 1902 at a cost of $150,000, the Great Northern Depot was the finest railroad depot west of Chicago. By the 1970s, many began to see the heavy downtown presence of the rails as a nuisance. The major rail yards established on the banks of the Spokane River were removed to make way for Expo ‘74. Today, Riverfront Park stands where the heart of Spokane’s industry once stood. The Great Northern clock tower reminds visitors of the city’s history and its booming rails. The tower’s four clock faces stretch nine feet across on each side, making it the largest clocktower in the West.

March | Steam Plant Square

On March 5, 1916, Harry A. Flood, president of Merchants Central Heating Company opened the valves at the newly completed heating plant – sending steam heat to the Stockholm Hotel and Pearsons Building located at Main and Wall. The Steam Plant created and supplied heat to more than 300 buildings in downtown Spokane from 1916 until 1986. Ten years later it was transformed into the Steam Plant Square, a mixed-use space that retained as much of the equipment and industrial materials as possible. The renovation efforts earned multiple awards, including first-of-its-kind recognition from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

April | The Liberty Building

Built in 1908 the Liberty Building was one of Spokane’s first department stores, Kemp and Hebert. The company grew quickly into one of the largest retail and wholesale businesses in the Northwest. Following the Great Depression, Kemp & Hebert went out of business in 1939. The building stood vacant until 1942 when it became the headquarters for the Army’s Spokane Air Forces Depot, the precursor to what is now Fairchild Air Force Base. The Levitch brothers, Abe and Meyer, bought the building in 1944 and moved their Liberty Furniture Store to the site and operated a thriving retail business until closing in 1986. In 1993 Shannon Ahern and Chris O’Harra bought the Kemp & Hebert building and renamed it the Liberty Building, now home to Auntie’s Bookstore and Uncle’s Games, among other businesses.

May | Spokane Lilac Festival

On May 17, 1938, what was intended to be a flower show blossomed into a Flower Festival Parade featuring one float and seven decorated automobiles. Following the creation of Armed Forces Day in 1949, the Spokane Lilac Festival Association modified the original Flower Festival Parade and celebration to include an Armed Forces Day Parade. The military parade and flower parade merged into one by 1955 and in 1976 joined with a Thursday evening torchlight parade to become the Spokane Lilac Festival Armed Forces Torchlight Parade, the largest Armed Forces Torchlight Parade in America with over 200 participating community floats, marching bands, military units and civic organizations. The parade is held each year in Downtown Spokane on the third Saturday in May, drawing over 100,000 spectators for the festivities. 

June | Spokane Falls SkyRide

One goal of the Expo ‘74 World’s Fair was to clean-up the Spokane River and reclaim the natural beauty of the falls. There are now many views of the falls from several vantage points in the downtown area, but the SkyRide remains the most spectacular. Suspended on cables, the enclosed gondolas protect visitors from the raging waters below. Built by Spokane-based Riblet Tramway Company, the original Jig-back tram operated until 2005 when it was replaced with a new tram manufactured by Doppelmayr. The ride takes visitors from its starting point on Havermale Island, over the falls, and under the Monroe Street Bridge into a world of mist. In 2013 the SkyRide was named “One of the Top 12 Scenic Cable Rides in the World” by Conde Nast Traveler.

July | Monroe Street Bridge

The grand Monroe Street Bridge was designed by celebrated architects: Kirtland K. Cutter and Karl G. Malmgren and spans 1,500 feet across the Spokane River gorge. The bridge opened on November 23, 1911 with over 3,000 Spokane citizens on hand to celebrate the world’s largest concrete arch-bridge. Just a few years after completion, in 1914, the city fathers permitted a railroad bridge to be built over the top, marring the beauty of the structure. The railroad bridge remained in place until it was removed as part of the preparations for Expo 74. Today the Monroe Street Bridge looks very much as it did in 1911, thanks to a 2003-2005 reconstruction project. The restoration preserved the structural features from the original 1911 design, including Cutter and Malmgren’s iconic life-size buffalo skulls, wagon wheels, wagon pavilions, and chain handrails that embody the pioneer spirit of Spokane’s earliest settlers.

August | Childhood Express

Located in Spokane’s Riverfront Park, the giant red wagon is the work of artist Ken Spiering, commissioned by the Junior League of Spokane in 1989 to pay tribute to the children of the past, present and the future. Enjoyed by children of all ages for over 25 years the larger than life wagon is an interactive sculpture, the handle also functions as a slide. Work on the wagon began in February 1990 and was completed January 31, 1991. Spiering labored full-time, seven days a week, 18 hours a day in studio and on site for an entire year. The wagon stands 12 feet tall and wide and 27 feet long. Made of steel and reinforced concrete the wagon weighs 26 tons and will hold as many as 300 people.

September | The Review Building 

The Review Building was erected in 1891 to house the “Spokane Falls Review” newspaper. W.H. Cowles, publisher of the “Spokesman” newspaper, acquired the building in the economic downturn of 1893, and renamed his paper “The Spokesman-Review,” which has operated to this day under the ownership of the Cowles family. The Romanesque-influenced eclectic architecture was the work of Alabama-born Chauncey B. Seaton. The seven stories, peaked roof and soaring tower are made of red pressed brick and Montana granite.

October | Downtown Spokane

Greetings from Downtown! Located in the heart of Spokane, your downtown is waiting with tons of historical charm, shopping, nightlife, a thriving urban center for business, art and more. Home to the famed Kirtland Cutter-designed Davenport Hotel, roughly 50 percent of downtown buildings are listed on the historic register. Take a walk through the 100 acre Riverfront Park and view the nation’s second largest urban waterfall. Or simply enjoy any number of over 150 coffee shops, restaurants, tasting rooms and entertainment venues.

November | Horse and Carriage Rides

Horse and Carriage Rides first appeared in downtown Spokane in 1997 in celebration of the revitalized River Park Square. Since 1997 the rides have become an iconic Summer and Holiday tradition in Downtown. Rides are provided free to the public and are a unique opportunity to experience Spokane from the vantage of a horse-drawn carriage.

December | Madonna and Child

In 1956, the C.C. Anderson department store chain, based in Boise, completed a new 10-story building located at Main Ave. and Wall St. in downtown Spokane, known as the Bon Marche. The store commissioned a holiday decoration for the front of the building which became the Madonna and Christ Child. The 12’ by 48’ backlit painted plastic sign, built by Baldwin Sign Company was installed above the main entrance of the store nearly every holiday season between 1957 and 2015.

Want to host a Vintage Downtown postcard at your First Friday event? Contact lizh@downtownspokane.net