The land where Riverside Memorial Park lies was originally a recreational municipal park, which opened in 1907 when John Aylard Finch spearheaded the organization of the Riverside Park Company. It wasn't until November 1914 that the grounds were dedicated as a cemetery, which required a special city ordinance to allow a cemetery to be within the city limits. The original name of the cemetery was Riverside Park Cemetery, and changed in 1962 to its current name.
From the outset as a cemetery, the organizers intended for Riverside to be an upscale cemetery that restricted burials to those from the upper classes of society. Evidence of this can be found in a corporate resolution which allowed the board members to set lot prices and had the right to refuse to sell lots to undesirable parties. In essence, then, this provision allowed for racial, ethnic, and economic segregation. It is unclear whether or not the corporate by-laws ever changed. However, federal and state laws from the 1960s forward prohibit cemeteries from discriminating in the sale of cemetery plots, except for those on religious grounds. For example, Mt. Nebo and Holy Cross cemeteries can refuse to sell plots to non-Hasidic Jews or non-Catholics, respectively.
Since the grounds were originally a park, it was only natural that the cemetery was developed in the memorial park design, with the majority of the gravesites having in-ground markers, and with few upright headstones, mausoleums, and family plots. There are, however, the fraternal and Orthodox sections that were designed in the old garden cemetery fashion.
In addition to being the home for the deceased, the site is also home to a large population of wildlife since it is so close to the confluence of Latah Creek with the Spokane River. The overall design of the cemetery was laid out in a flower pattern, thus the names of the sections: Rose, Violet, Aster, Lily, Jonquil, Tulip, and Wisteria among others.
Near the entrance you will find memorials to Spokane's law enforcement personnel and local firefighters, the rose garden columbarium, and bell tower. There is also the Riverside Mausoleum, which was built in 1931. According to cemetery historian, John Caskey, the crypt spaces were priced to cater to the rich, and were considered some of the most expensive in the United States at the time.
In addition to Finch, other Spokane pioneers buried at Riverside include Robert and Carrie Strahorn, Louis Davenport, and the August Paulsen family.