The cornerstone for the current Mount St. Michael was laid in 1914, but the history of this Catholic church is much older.
Father Joseph Cataldo arrived in the Inland Northwest in 1865 as a missionary to the Spokane Indians. In 1866 he re-established a chapel that Father Joseph Caruana initially started in 1864. Just two miles northeast of Hillyard, the chapel shared Chief Peone’s property near the Treaty Tree. In December of that year, the cabin was dedicated to Saint Michael and became the first ordained church in Spokane County.
In 1882, Cataldo purchased a thousand acres from the Northern Pacific Railroad in Bigelow Gulch, just north of the original chapel. The land primarily served as a farm to provide produce and dairy products to the small school and seminary founded along the Spokane River in 1887, Gonzaga College. Because of the significant increase in the number of attendees of Gonzaga the Catholic Church decided in 1912 to separate the seminary from the school and relocate it to the farm. Julius Zittle, the architect for the project, had a long resume of designing educational and institutional buildings throughout the area.
The bluff on which the building sits that provides such sweeping views of the region posed quite a problem for the builders. An 1,100 foot long rail line was built to haul building materials up to the site. The two rail cars could haul three hundred tons each, and eventually carried over two-and-a-half million tons of brick. The building was officially completed in 1916, and a wing was added in 1929.
The Jesuits sold Mount St. Michaels in 1978. The property ended up in the hands of the Congregation of Mary Immaculate, a traditionalist Catholic group that practices Latin Mass. The building now serves as a church, convent, and school for students kindergarten through twelfth grade. The building is accessible to the public, call ahead for tours or to visit their small museum.