DescriptionYou are standing next to the clock tower of the former Great Northern station. It is one of the few surviving remnants of Havermale Island as it was from the first years of the 20th century until Expo 74.
Spokane, like many towns in the American West, was transformed by and even dependent upon the commerce and capital of railroads.
The Northern Pacific connected the small town of Spokane to its web of routes in 1884. In its own traveler's guide of 1889, it spent more time praising bucolic fishing and the roar of the falls than its potential to be transformed into industrial power. Spokane was a picturesque tourist destination among the basalt columns and pines.
Naturally, local boosters saw it differently. In their own promotional guide, "the date from which the growth of the city is to be counted" was 1884 rather than 1873. And, further, that growth would be in the manufacturing of timber and agricultural products and not tourism. Even more important was the rail connection to the mining districts of northeastern Washington and northern Idaho. To boosters, this made Spokane far more important than "Denver, Salt Lake, Butte or Helena" because "those cities are drawing on Spokane's tributary mining districts for supplies of ore."
Within a decade, local rail lines began to radiate out to the mining and agricultural hinterlands and additional transcontinental lines passed in or close to the city. Men poured in to work on these projects. From Spokane, the Central Washington Railway embraced the country of the Big Bend of the Columbia in 1890. Shooting northward, the Spokane International Railway crossed the Canadian border and joined with the Canadian Pacific line and the mining country of the Canadian Kootenays. The Great Northern Railroad sited a railyard at Hillyard and a grand station in central Spokane. In 1914, the Union Pacific and Milwaukee Road finished construction on a viaduct which hugged the Spokane River before crossing to a new artificial hill on its north bank.
The completion of this viaduct, even though it further hid not only the falls but also the new Monroe Street Bridge, was greeted with great fanfare by the community and the railroad companies. Unknown to Spokanites, it was also to be the last hurrah of the rail boom. As new construction slowed, so too did the frantic growth of the city. Trains would clatter and bustle over the Spokane River for another fifty years, transforming the city by increments rather than leaps and bounds.