"[The effects of I-90 were] very negative. I don't know, it just seemed to take the heart out of the people."
Wayne Struck has lived in the East Central neighborhood since 1944. One the neighborhood's longest continuous residents, Wayne remembers it as a mainly middle-class place peopled by Swedes, Germans, and Norwegians. This is consistent with immigration patterns of the late nineteenth century when Spokane was founded. Many of its earliest citizens were farmers of northern European extraction who moved from the Midwest in the years of rapid westward expansion after the Civil War. Wayne's earliest memories center on Grace Lutheran Church, one of the largest, most influential churches at the time. It founded the SPEAR program (Serving People through Education, Arts, and Entertainment) to address some of the needs that emerged after the construction of I-90 (see interview #12, Claudia Holtz, for more information).
Sadly, Grace Lutheran eventually became a casualty of the problems they were working so hard to solve. After the freeway was completed, the church's members, most of whom lived on the north side, stopped coming in favor of other churches that were easier to reach. Membership declined steadily through the 1970s and 1980s; by the mid-1990s Grace Lutheran was had a congregation of less than one hundred. Still, it continued to commit considerable resources to the SPEAR program, which eventually spread to half a dozen other churches. Ultimately, Grace was forced to close its doors in 2006, but its board members made every effort to insure the long-term viability of its vision by donating office space and member expertise to SPEAR. Although it has had to scale back its activities, SPEAR continues to work in the same community it was created to serve almost fifty years ago.
Although the story of Grace Lutheran has a happy ending, it remains a symbol of the devastating impact construction of I-90 had on the East Central community. No organization, not even the most sacred and long-lived, escaped its effects.