Trent Alley

Spokane's Original Melting Pot

In 1913, the east side of Spokane's downtown teemed with small businesses run by Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Greek and German immigrants. Their restaurants, laundries and baths, barber shops, hotels, groceries and pool halls mainly served the city's working-class residents. Japanese photographer Ryosuke Akashi captured the lives of Spokane's Japanese entrepreneurs in an album entitled Spokane Japanese Business Men and their Enterprises. Akashi carefully photographed each Japanese business and proprietor, as well as Japanese farmers, Japanese baseball players, and a Japanese cemetery. "We are always discriminated based on our race in this foreign place," he wrote. "I would like to share our story."

In the 1880s, downtown Spokane had a bustling international district. Known as Trent Alley, the four block stretch between Spokane Falls Boulevard and Main Avenue, contained a network of alleys filled with Chinese and Japanese businesses such as Kotaro Konishi Barber Shop, located where you are standing. The neighborhood attracted workers passing through to work for the various railroads and mines in the region.

Scattered with bars, gambling houses, opium dens and bordellos, Trent Alley started out with a bad reputation. Edith Huey describes Trent Alley as "a small but busy community living to a considerable extent apart from the rest of the city." As more families moved in and businesses grew, the area became a thriving international neighborhood. A 1912 newspaper article observed residents of Trent Alley celebrating Christmas "in true American fashion . . . all along the alley the rattle of ivory chips and dominoes could be heard . . . and the click of the cue ball was also in evidence."

During the 1930s, Trent Alley was hit hard by the Great Depression. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the neighborhood experienced a brief renewal, as many Japanese-Americans attempting to escape internment settled in Spokane. But by the late 1950s most of Trent Alley's residents relocated into other parts of the city. When Expo '74 came to town, the remains of Spokane's Trent Alley were demolished and paved over to prepare for the World's Fair.

MAC 100 Stories: A Centennial Exhibition is told on the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture campus in Spokane's Browne's Addition, with additional highlights at 15 sites in Spokane and eastern Washington. The exhibit experience (February 22, 2014 - January 2016) weaves stories and programs about Inland Northwest people, places and events by capitalizing on the MAC's extraordinary collection.

Spokane Historical presents 15 regional and city tours in partnership with the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture and its 100 Stories exhibition.


Spokane's Chinatown
Images Courtesy of: Northwest Room of the Spokane Public Library, The Spokane Daily Chronicle, Flickr Creative Commons, Cheney Free Press, and
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