Beginning in the 1800s, many Catholic parents began to believe that their children were not served by a system of public education that was dominated by Protestant educators and elected officials. Catholic schools were founded across the country in an effort to provide an education that was both up-to-date and aligned with their faith.
In Spokane, St Joseph's Catholic Church in west central oversaw one of the first parish schools in the area. The Hamilton Building on the corner of Dean and Walnut is a large structure that was originally part of the catholic school and was used as a gym and an assembly hall. Additional buildings included….XX. There were at least ten other parochial schools in Spokane at this time with several thousand school pupils attending. The school offered the basic three “Rs,” plus Religion, and operated on a similar schedule to public schools. According to the Review, a case of Scarlet Fever closed the school for a full week in February 1953 but it reopened after the scare was over.
The building itself, built in 1928, is a fine example of the Spanish Eclectic style with distinctive tile and roof features designed by well-known architect Julius Zittel. Zittel was originally from Germany and designed many buildings in Spokane including several other Catholic churches and school buildings, (among them Gonzaga’s St. Aloysius church.) He was appointed state architect in 1897 which was a testament to his prolific work.
The church closed the gym in 1969 and the building was then purchased by Donald Hamilton who remodeled the interior, switched out the old St. Joseph’s sign and turned it into a photography studio. Don Hamilton and his team still house their photography and film production firm in the building and offer services that include radio commercials and documentaries, as well as still photography and studio rentals. The original Catholic School sign now adorns the inside of the building and other curios and artifacts from its school days have been found including a radioactive clay jug --this last object was given to the planned Hanford History Museum to safeguard.