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The first humans to live in the Spokane area were hunter-gatherers that lived off plentiful fish and game; early human remains have been dated to 8,000 to 13,000 years ago. The Spokane tribe, after which the city is named (the name meaning "children of the sun" or "sun people" in Salishan), are believed to be either their direct descendants, or descendants of people from the Great Plains. When asked by early white explorers, the Spokanes said their ancestors came from "up North." Early in the 19th century, the Northwest Fur Company sent two white fur trappers west of the Rocky Mountains to search for fur. These were the first white men met by the Spokanes, who believed they were sacred, and set the trappers up in the Colville River valley for the winter.
The explorer-geographer David Thompson, working as head of the North West Company's Columbia Department, became the first European to explore the Inland Empire (now called the Inland Northwest). Crossing what is now the Canada–US border from British Columbia, Thompson wanted to expand the North West Company further south in search of furs. After establishing the Kullyspell House and Saleesh House trading posts in what are now Idaho and Montana, Thompson then attempted to expand further west. He sent out two trappers, Jacques Raphael Finlay and Finan McDonald, to construct a fur trading post on the Spokane River, which flows west from Lake Coeur d'Alene to the Columbia River, and trade with the local Indians. This post was established in 1810, at the confluence of the Little Spokane and Spokane rivers, becoming the first enduring European settlement of significance in what later became Washington state. Known as the Spokane House, or simply "Spokane", it was in operation from 1810 to 1826. Operations were run by the British North West Company and later the Hudson's Bay Company, and the post was the headquarters of the fur trade between the Rocky and Cascade mountains for 16 years. After the latter business absorbed the North West Company in 1821, the major operations at the Spokane House were eventually shifted north to Fort Colville, reducing the post's significance.
In 1836, Reverend Samuel Parker visited the area and reported that around 800 Native Americans were living in Spokane Falls. A medical mission was established by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman to cater for Cayuse Indians and hikers of the Oregon Trail at Walla Walla in the south. After the Whitmans were killed by Indians in 1847, Reverend Cushing Eells established Whitman College in their memory, also setting up the first church in the Spokane area.
In 1853, two years after the establishment of the Washington Territory, the first governor, Isaac Stevens, made an initial effort to make a treaty with Chief Garry and the Spokanes at Antoine Plantes' Ferry, not far from Millwood. 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 battles of Four Lakes and Spokane Plains. The cessation of hostilities opened the inter-mountain valley of the Pacific Northwest to safe habitation by settlers.
Joint American–British occupation of Oregon Country, in effect since the Treaty of 1818, eventually led to the Oregon Boundary Dispute after a large influx of American settlers along the Oregon Trail. Great Britain ceded its claims to lands in Puget Sound and the central and lower Columbia Basin by the Oregon Treaty of 1846 The Hudson's Bay Company wound up its operations in the area over the next few years.
The first American settlers in what is now Spokane were J.J. Downing and S.R. Scranton, cattle ranchers who squatted and established a claim at Spokane Falls in 1871. Together they built a small sawmill on a claim near the south bank of the falls.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. They realized the investment potential and bought the claims of 160 acres (65 ha) and the sawmill from Downing and Scranton for a total of $4,000. Glover and Matheney knew that the Northern Pacific Railroad Company had received a government charter to build a main line across this northern route. Amid many delays in construction and uncertainty over the completion of the railroad and its exact course, Matheney sold his interest in the claim to Glover. Glover confidently held on to his claim and became a successful Spokane business owner and the city's second mayor. He later came to be known 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. By June 30, 1881, the railway reached the city, bringing major European settlement to the area. The city was officially incorporated with a population of about 1,000 residents on November 29, 1881. When Spokane was officially incorporated in 1881, Robert W. Forrest was elected as the first mayor of the city, with a Council of seven, S.G. Havermale, A.M. Cannon, Dr. L.H. Whitehouse, L.W. Rima, F.R. Moore, George A. Davis, and W.C. Gray, all serving without pay. The marketing campaigns of transportation companies with affordable fertile land to sell along their trade routes lured many settlers into the region they dubbed "Spokane Country".
The 1883 discovery of gold, silver, and lead in the Coeur d'Alene region of northern Idaho lured prospectors. The Inland Empire erupted with numerous mining rushes from 1883 to 1892. Mining and smelting emerged as a major stimulus to Spokane. At the onset of the initial 1883 gold rush in the nearby Coeur d'Alene mining district, Spokane became popular with prospectors, offering low prices on everything "from a horse to a frying pan". It would keep this status for subsequent rushes in the region due to its trade center status and accessibility to railroad infrastructure.
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. Due to technical problems with a pump station, there was no water pressure in the city when the fire started. In a desperate bid to starve the fire, firefighters began razing buildings with dynamite. Eventually the winds and the fire died down; 32 blocks of Spokane's downtown core had been destroyed and one person killed.
Despite this catastrophe, and in part because of it, Spokane experienced a building boom. The downtown was rebuilt, and the city was reincorporated under the present name of "Spokane" in 1891. According to historian David H. Stratton, "From the late 1890s to about 1912, a great flurry of construction created a modern urban profile of office buildings, banks, department stores, hotels and other commercial institutions" which stretched from the Spokane River to the site of the Northern Pacific railroad tracks below the South Hill. Yet the rebuilding and development of the city was far from smooth: between 1889 and 1896 alone, all six bridges over the Spokane River were destroyed by floods before their completion. In the 1890s the city was subject to intrastate migration by African-Americans from Roslyn, looking for work after the closure of the area's mines. Two African-American churches, Calvary Baptist and Bethel African Methodist Episcopal, were founded in 1890. Just three years after the fire, in 1892, James J. Hill's Great Northern Railway arrived in the chosen site for Hill's rail yards, the newly created township of Hillyard (annexed by Spokane in 1924). Spokane became an important rail shipping and transportation hub for the Inland Empire, connecting mines in the Silver Valley with agricultural areas around the Palouse region. The city's population ballooned to 19,922 in 1890, and to 36,848 in 1900 with the arrival of additional railroads. By 1910 the population had hit 104,000, and Spokane eclipsed Walla Walla as the commercial center of the Inland Empire. In time the city came to be known as the "capital" of the Inland Empire and the heart of a vast tributary region. After the arrival of the Northern Pacific, Union Pacific, Great Northern, and Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific railroads, Spokane became one of the most important rail centers in the western U.S.
Expansion abruptly stopped in the 1910s and was followed by a period of population decline, due in large part to Spokane's slowing economy. Control of regional mines and resources became increasingly dominated by national corporations rather than local people and organizations, diverting capital outside of Spokane and decreasing growth and investment opportunities in the city. During this time of stagnation, unrest was prevalent among the area's unemployed, who became victimized by "job sharks", who charged a fee for signing up workers in the logging camps. Job sharks and employment agencies were known to cheat itinerant workers, sometimes paying bribes to periodically fire entire work crews, thus generating repetitive fees for themselves. Crime spiked in the 1890s and 1900s, with eruptions of violent activity involving unions such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or "Wobblies" as they were often known, whose free speech fights had begun to garner national attention. Now, with grievances concerning the unethical practices of the employment agencies, they initiated a free speech fight in September 1908 by purposely breaking a city ordinance on soapboxing. With IWW encouragement, union members from many western states came to Spokane to take part in what had become a publicity stunt. Many Wobblies were incarcerated, including feminist labor leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who published her account in the local Industrial Worker.
After mining declined at the turn of the 20th century, agriculture and logging became the primary influences in the Spokane economy. The population explosion and the building of homes, railroads, and mines in northern Idaho and southern British Columbia fueled the logging industry. Although overshadowed in importance by the vast timbered areas on the coastal regions west of the Cascades, and burdened with monopolistic rail freight rates and stiff competition, Spokane became a noted leader in the manufacture of doors, window sashes, blinds, and other planing mill products. Rail freight rates were much higher in Spokane than the rates in coastal seaport cities such as Seattle and Portland, so much so that Minneapolis merchants could ship goods first to Seattle and then back to Spokane for less than shipping directly to Spokane, even though the rail line ran through Spokane on the way to the coast.
The Inland Northwest region has also long been associated with farming, especially wheat production. Initially, the Palouse was thought to unsuitable for wheat production due to the hilly terrain, believing wheat could not be cultivated on the tops of the hills, but the region showed great promise for wheat production when it began in the late 1850s in part due to the hilltops. The Palouse was and still is a breadbasket and was able to develop and grow with the completion of several railroad networks as well as a highway system that began to center around the city of Spokane, aiding farmers from around the region in distributing their products to market. Inland Empire farmers exported wheat, livestock and other agricultural products to ports such as New York, Liverpool and Tokyo.
Local morale was affected for years by the collapse of the Division Street Bridge early in the morning on December 15, 1915, which killed five people and injured over 20, but a new bridge was built (eventually replaced in 1994). The 1920 census showed a net increase of just 35 individuals, which actually indicates that thousands left the city when considering the natural growth rate of a population. Growth in the 1920s and 1930s remained slow but less drastically so, forcing city boosters to market the city as a quiet, comfortable place suitable for raising a family rather than a dynamic community full of opportunity. The Inland Empire was heavily dependent on natural resources and extractive goods produced from mines, forests, and farms, which experienced a fall in demand. The situation improved slightly with the start of World War II as aluminum production commenced in Spokane due to the area's cheap electricity (produced from regional dams) and the increased demand for airplanes.
After decades of stagnation and slow growth, Spokane businessmen formed Spokane Unlimited in the early 1960s, an organization that sought to revitalize downtown Spokane. A recreation park showcasing the Spokane Falls was the preferred option, and after successful negotiation to relocate the railroad facilities on Havermale Island, they executed on a proposal to host the first environmentally themed World's Fair in Expo '74 on May 4, becoming the smallest city at the time to host a World's Fair. This event transformed Spokane's downtown, removing a century of railroad infrastructure and re-inventing the urban core. After Expo '74, the fairgrounds became the 100-acre (40 ha) Riverfront Park.
The growth witnessed in the late 1970s and early 1980s was interrupted by another U.S. recession in 1981, in which silver, timber, and farm prices dropped. The period of decline for the city lasted into the 1990s and was also marked by a loss of many steady family-wage jobs in the manufacturing sector. At this time, market forces began to impact the local Kaiser Aluminum plant and layoffs, pension cuts, a 1998-1999 labor strike, and eventually bankruptcy in 2002 followed. Although this was a tough period, Spokane's economy had started to benefit from some measure of economic diversification; growing companies such as Key Tronic and other research, marketing, and assembly plants for technology companies helped lessen Spokane's dependence on natural resources.
As of 2014, Spokane is still trying to make the transition to a more service-oriented economy in the face of a less prominent manufacturing sector. Developing the city's strength in the medical and health sciences fields has seen some success, resulting in the expansion of the University District with two medical school branches. The city faces challenges such as a scarcity of high-paying jobs, pockets of poverty, and areas of high crime.
The opening of the River Park Square Mall in 1999 served as a catalyst and sparked a downtown rebirth that included the building of the Spokane Arena and expansion of the Spokane Convention Center. Other major projects include the building of the Big Easy concert house (now the Knitting Factory) and renovation of the historic Montvale Hotel, the Kirtland Cutter-designed Davenport Hotel (after being vacant for over 20 years), the Fox Theater (now home to the Spokane Symphony) as well as the completion of the WSU Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences Building in 2013 and the Davenport Grand Hotel in 2015, Ridpath Hotel in 2018 and the ongoing renovation of Riverfront Park (as of May 2019). 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.
According to the American Community Survey, the median income for a household in Spokane in 2012 was $42,274, and the median income for a family was $50,268. Males had a median income of $42,693 and females had a median income of $34,795. The per capita income for the city was $24,034. About 13.3% of families and 18.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.8% of those under the age of 18 and 10.8% of those aged 65 and older.
At the 2010 census, 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 make-up of the city was 86.7% White, 5.0% Hispanics and Latinos, 2.6% Asian, 2.3% African American, 2.0% Native American, 0.6% Pacific Islander, and 1.3% from other races.
There were 87,271 households, 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. In 2010, 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.
The median age in the city was 35 years. In Spokane, 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 make-up of the city was 48.8% male and 51.2% female.
According to the Association of Religion Data Archives' 2010 Metro Area Membership Report, the denominational affiliations 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. As of 2016, there are also at least three Jewish congregations.
The Emanu-El congregation erected the first synagogue in Spokane and the state of Washington on September 14, 1892. The city's first mosque opened in 2009 as the Spokane Islamic Center. 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. The city serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane, which was established in 1913, and the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane, established in 1929. The Spokane Washington Temple, established in 1999, serves Latter-day Saints from the east of the county.
Spokane has hosted an annual multicultural celebration, Unity in the Community, since 1995. The city has become more diverse in recent decades. People from countries in the former Soviet Union (especially Russians and Ukrainians) form a comparatively large demographic in Spokane and Spokane County, the result of a large influx of immigrants and their families after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. According to the 2000 Census, the number of people of Russian or Ukrainian ancestry in Spokane County was reported to be 7,700 (4,900 residing in the city of Spokane), amounting to two percent of the county. Among the fastest-growing demographics in Spokane is the Pacific Islander ethnic group, which is estimated to be the third-largest minority group in the county, after the Russian and Ukrainian community and Latinos. Spokane was once home to a sizable Asian community, mostly Japanese, centered in a district called Chinatown from the early days of the city until 1974. As in many western railway towns, the Asian community started off as an encampment for migrant laborers working on the railroads. The Chinatown Asian community thrived until the 1940s, after which its population decreased and became integrated and dispersed, losing its Asian character; urban blight and the preparations leading up to Expo '74 led to Chinatown's eventual demolition.
Spokane and its metro area in general, particularly northern Idaho has been stigmatized in the popular consciousness by a number of hate groups that have been set up in and around Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, in the past. Low ethnic diversity made the region a destination for some seeking to escape more cosmopolitan cities for a locale with a relatively homogenous, white population. This trend increased with the arrival of retired engineer Richard Butler from California who traveled to Hayden, Idaho, in 1974 to eventually establish a white supremacist church called the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, better known by its political arm, the Aryan Nations. Aryan Nations recruits and associates were responsible for several hate crimes and terror plots during the mid 1980s and 1990s. The group went defunct in 2000 when the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a civil suit which resulted in a $6.3 million settlement, which led to the eventual bankruptcy and closure of their Hayden compound. Another significant act of hate was the attempted bombing of Spokane's Martin Luther King Day Parade by Kevin Harpham of Addy, Washington in 2011. The Southern Poverty Law Center currently lists three hate groups in the Spokane and Coeur d'Alene metro areas, in the categories of anti-Muslim, Holocaust denial, and general hate.
The Spokane metropolitan area consists of Spokane County. As of the 2018 census estimates, the Spokane metropolitan area had a population of 573,493. Directly east of Spokane County is the Coeur d'Alene Metropolitan Statistical Area, which consists of Kootenai County, Idaho, anchored by the city of Coeur d'Alene. The urban areas of the two MSAs largely follow the path of Interstate 90 between Spokane and Coeur d'Alene. The Spokane area has suffered from 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 according to the Sightline Institute, however Smart Growth America in a 2014 study ranked the census defined MSA as the 22nd most compact and connected in the nation using their Sprawl Index factors: development density, land use mix, activity centering, and street accessibility. The Spokane and Coeur d'Alene Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) are now included in a single Combined Statistical Area (CSA) by the Office of Management and Budget. The Spokane–Coeur d'Alene CSA had around 721,873 residents in 2017.
Seattle is a compact, beautiful city in Washington State. It is bordered by the Olympic Mountains and has lovely mountain scenery. Its population is less than three million but has seen an explosion in tourism and development. Due to these dramatic changes, its demographics have changed, from a predominantly white Christian community to an increasingly multiethnic one. The city is also highly diverse, with residents coming from all parts of the country and many different religious groups.
Seattle lies along a narrow strip of real estate along the water of Puget Sound. To the north are the Olympic Mountains and to the south are clear waters and wooded mountains. Beyond the waters lies two rocky mountain ranges, the Olympic to the north and the Cascades to south. Early immigrants came to Washington State looking for a life beyond the hill station life and found such a lifestyle in Washington State. They developed an extensive commerce and social networks, as well as a complex heritage that now influence the demographic makeup of the state and their political representation.
Washington is a state very much influenced by European settlement. The cities of Seattle and Washington City, Washington, were originally settlements of pioneers. Many of today's middle-class people to commute to work in the city and surrounding areas. The cities have developed into huge business centers providing world-class goods and services to residents. This growth has helped fuel the growth of the city, but some areas are becoming less urbanized and more rural. A new group of people, often called "urban professionals", have been created to help urban areas grow in a more environmentally-friendly way.
Washington State is very diverse. A number of Native American tribes live in the state. Some of these tribes are dependent on the natural environment, such as Washington State fish populations and forests. Other communities have never had contact with outside humans and maintain distinct cultures. Washington State has an interesting history and many of its towns and villages are historical sites that portray the original way people lived long before modern civilization.
The Washington State History Museum in Olympia houses one of the largest collections of historical artifacts in the country. It features a number of exhibits that tell the story of the state over the years. It is open to the public and provides educational opportunities to people of all ages.
Washington offers a variety of outdoor activities. The Olympic Peninsula and Puget Sound offer challenging and rewarding hiking experiences. There are also fishing opportunities, canoeing, kayaking, fly fishing and whale watching. Some of the most beautiful and scenic areas for camping are in and around the state.
Washington is a state with vast untapped resources waiting to be explored. If you love nature and historic sites, there is plenty of that in Washington. In particular, there is a vast area of wildernesses rich in wildlife and natural beauty. The Olympic National Park, the Space Needle and other National Parks can all be visited easily by driving or hiking in the region.
The University of Washington is among the best schools in the country for anyone wishing to pursue a degree in any field of study. Their geography department is one of the finest in the country. Other examples of the quality of education in this area include the U.S. Naval Academy and George Washington University. Those living in Washington State are fortunate in that they have access to some of the best colleges and universities in the world. Coupled with the Pacific Northwest's natural beauty, it is no wonder why Washington State has become a favorite place to live for people from all around the world.