Claudia Holtz, Associated Since the 1908s

"[The I-90 freeway] separated the little neighborhood [to the north] from all the services on the south side."

Claudia Holtz does not live in the East Central neighborhood, but she has worked tirelessly to help some of its most disadvantaged residents. She is currently the director of a program called SPEAR (Serving People through Education, Arts, and Recreation), founded by Grace Lutheran church in 1968 as a response to problems created by the construction of the I-90 freeway. Grace Lutheran is, in fact, one of several churches with long histories in the community and once boasted a congregation of 600-700 with members who traveled from all over Spokane County to attend. These religious organizations were cornerstones of the neighborhood that served as informal community action networks, gathering resources and distributing them where they were most needed. In contrast to local, state and federal agencies, whose ponderous bureaucracies slowed their activities to a crawl, local churches were nimble, able to react as needs became apparent.

This was exactly the case with Grace Lutheran's SPEAR program. Just a few years after the completion of the freeway, it was clear that the part of the neighborhood north of it was deteriorating at an alarming rate. There were many reasons for this, but one of the most obvious was that I-90 had isolated the north side residents from community services they depended on, virtually all of which were south of the freeway. Some, like the library and corner stores, were inconvenient but not life altering. Others, like the community center, day care facilities, and the parks were devastating for these low-income families, who were stranded in an increasingly blighted neighborhood. The only church left on the south side, Grace Lutheran stepped in to fill some of that gap by providing after-school care and hot meals three or four days a week. SPEAR had such an impact that some families displaced by demolitions for the upcoming north-south addition to I-90 chose to move in together rather than lose the services it provided.

Although Grace Lutheran closed its doors in 2006, a somewhat scaled-back version the SPEAR program is still alive and well, providing essential support to the residents of the East Central neighborhood.

Images

A view from the top of the bluff at the end of Perry Street, looking north, 1925 (image L878-1.29018-25)

A view from the top of the bluff at the end of Perry Street, looking north, 1925 (image L878-1.29018-25)

Note the continuous northward flow of the East Central neighborhood before it was broken up by I-90. View File Details Page

4th Avenue & Carnahan, 1965 (image L87-1.2131-65 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture)

4th Avenue & Carnahan, 1965 (image L87-1.2131-65 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture)

The newly-completed I-90 can be seen on the left margin of this image. Also visible is a while barricade, suggesting that Carnahan used to cross 4th here, allowing easy access to Sprague business district to the north. View File Details Page

The western end of Sprague Avenue, 1937 (image L87-1.11341-37 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture)

The western end of Sprague Avenue, 1937 (image L87-1.11341-37 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture)

The area around Sprague Avenue had always been a tough neighborhood. I-90 left it even more impoverished and blighted. View File Details Page

The East Central Branch of the Carnegie Library shortly after construction, 1914 (image L87-1.11112X-14 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture)

The East Central Branch of the Carnegie Library shortly after construction, 1914 (image L87-1.11112X-14 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture)

Residents north of the I-90 freeway were cut off from services like the library. View File Details Page

 Looking northeast from the corner of 5th and Aurthur at the entrance to Liberty Park playground, undated (courtesy of the digital image collection, Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library)

Looking northeast from the corner of 5th and Aurthur at the entrance to Liberty Park playground, undated (courtesy of the digital image collection, Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library)

Residents living north of I-90 found it much harder to get to what remained of Liberty Park. View File Details Page

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Cite this Page:

Spokane Regional Health District's Neighborhoods Matter Program, & Frank Oesterheld, “Claudia Holtz, Associated Since the 1908s,” Spokane Historical, accessed May 30, 2017, http://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/481.
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