Theodore Roosevelt on the Parade Grounds
Fort George Wright Tour
You are standing where Teddy Roosevelt stood on April 8th 1911, reviewing the 500 heroic African-American troops of the 25th Infantry as they passed in review. The 25th Infantry had served with Roosevelt in the Spanish American War, and had been instrumental in the conquest of Cuba. Roosevelt's second visit to the fort was accompanied by speeches, music, and celebrations of all kinds. Dignitaries from the city arrived at Fort George Wright to welcome the president and a twenty-one gun salute augured in his arrival.
The citizens of Spokane were by no means entirely pleased by the racial makeup of the troops stationed at Fort George Wright. Racist 19th century ideas still persisted in the early 20th century and Spokane was not immune. Still Roosevelt regaled the spectators with tales of the heroism of the black soldiers at San Juan Hill and other battles in the Spanish-American War. With his characteristic political showmanship, he shook the hand of every child living on the base. The festivities were briefly interrupted when Major F.J. Kernan drew his sword, only to have his horse spooked by the torrent of camera flashes and throw him to the ground. The former President as always maintained his positivity and jovial attitude, merely remarking how well the Major had "recovered control of his mount". Roosevelt had previously visited in 1909 while still in office.
Marching, drilling, practicing maneuvers and other pomp are a way of life for a military base and Fort George Wright was no different. The parade grounds were used for all kinds of ceremony and practice routine. From basic drills to the welcoming of a president, the parade grounds saw heavy use, even serving as the site of musical concerts and other community functions.
While the area is today contains a modern road, you can still see the original tile brick designs at your feet. With each individual brick weighing ten pounds and placed by hand, the construction of the fort's sidewalks and patios was no easy task, requiring thousands of hours of backbreaking labor.