Exploring Northwest US and Canada: Week 4, Day 27, Spokane

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July 15th 2018
Published: July 15th 2018
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8/6 While preparing breakfast, Ellen and I watched hummingbirds and wild turkeys out of her kitchen window. I enjoyed all the wildlife but Ellen was not so fond of the turkeys and their mess. When Jim and Dave left to play golf, Ellen took me for a tour of Spokane. We began in an area of historic homes on a bluff that overlooks the city of Spokane. Cannon Hill Park is an historic district in Spokane that was once a brickyard that made the coveted Cannon Hill paving bricks. A fire closed the brickyard and the area became Adams Parknamed after John Quincy Adam’s grandson. The name was changed later to Cannon Hill Park for A.M. Cannon, a local banker and real estate developer. The Olmsted Brothers, nationally known for their landscape designs, created a design for this park with a stone shelter, two pergolas and a wading pool.

We drove down off the bluff and into Spokane to see some of the historic buildings in the city. It was a Saturday and we wondered if we would find parking in town but surprisingly the streets were pretty empty making it easy to park and walk around the city. A number of architectural designs populate the downtown in Spokane putting the city on the map as The Western Architect described “the best built modern city on the continent”. From the early 1900s to the crash in 1920 noteworthy distinctive buildings sprang up, some say built around the Davenport Hotel. Spokane later emerged in the post-war Modernist era with new energy and designs making this a great Western city. We saw several street art installations, one was a metal bench created by David Govedare (2003), with musical instruments and notes imbedded in the bench. His design was made from salvaged material from the Steam Plant.

We toured the historic 1913 Davenport Hotel, where we were greeted by an elderly doorman decked out in his historical costumed finery at the hotel entrance. Ellen said he has been there forever. I'll bet he had stories to tell. Louis Davenport opened his first restaurant in a tent in 1889, following Spokane’s great fire. Davenport’s successful tent restaurant experiment exploded into the construction of the Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane. Architect Kirtland Cutter used rustic Boise sandstone accented with terra cotta ram’s heads and Florentine windows for this downtown, now iconic, statement. If you think the exterior of the hotel is impressive, a step inside is likely to wow you. From its sumptuous and elegant skylit tea room on the first floor to the colorful Art Deco bar, the decorations and designs are intended to astound. There are elaborately decorated rooms such as the Hall of Doges, Elizabethan Room, Roosevelt Room, and even a Marie Antoinette Room where a 1924 photo on the wall showed the Mel Butler Orchestra performing in Louis the XVI costume. Louis Davenport was apparently a showman, drawing crowds and curiosity in 1915 when he had an Automobile Show inside the hotel. An old photo shows a circa 1915 Motel T Ford being winched up a pair of ramps from the main floor to the second floor inside the hotel. Service and attention to detail remain the hallmarks of Davenport’s career.

We walked over to the 1931 Art Deco Fox Theater, today called the Martin Woldson Theater, designed by architect Robert Reamer, known for his design of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. The theater served as both concert hall for vaudeville- style shows as well as providing superb acoustics for classical music as well as serving as a highly decorated movie palace. Fox, yes the Hollywood William Fox, provided top movie stars and performers to open this grand theater. Sergei Rachmaninoff, Jascha Heifetz and Vladimir Horowitz filled the concert hall with music while entranced patrons sat under an incredible 60 foot wide Heinsbergen-designed glass light fixture, that with its 3,758 light bulbs filled the theater like twinkling stars from the heavens. Later singers like Frank Sinatra graced the stage. If for no other reason than to attend a concert here, this completely restored theater is a wonderful reason to return to Spokane.

We left the downtown to walk through the 90 acre Manito Park and Botanical Gardens. Manito means the “Spirit of Nature” in the Algonquian language, a perfect description of the park. The famed Olmsted Brothers designed the landscape for this and several other parks in Spokane. Included in the park is the Duncan Garden, a formal 3-acre European garden with a granite fountain. Other gardens include the Ferris Perennial Garden, the Gaiser Conservatory, a Japanese Garden, Rose Hill with its gazebo and test gardens, a Dahlia Garden and Lilac Garden. Many paths connect these lovely scented spaces but today it was so very hot outside that the sun sucked the energy right out of this Florida gal, therefore the shady portion of the Ferris Perennial Garden and the cool stone bench under the fir trees appealed most to me.

We needed a break from the heat and so returned to Ellen’s for yogurt and some of Ellen’s delicious home baked hickory nut cookies (so good the memory of them still lingers). We had a unique gingersnap and cheddar cheese sandwich that I will add to my own repertoire. She introduced me to the Australian snack called dry bikkies (a saltine cracker with butter, fresh tomatoes and fresh ground pepper). The bikkes were good but it was hard to beat those cookies. Watching the hummingbirds at the kitchen feeder is addicting but then looking for deer in their meadow and later for the wild turkeys kept me and my camera busy. Later after the men returned from golf we enjoyed salmon hash and apple bean chili while getting a wonderful tutelage on wines from Jim. This “B&B” can’t be beat!

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