The Crescent Building

Large department stores once ruled the centers of American cities. Macy's in New York, Nordstrom in Seattle, and the Crescent in Spokane sold everything needed for daily life and often many extras. The buildings that housed these stores were often designed to draw the attention of passers by. The stores would have large windows so that potential customers could easily see what they had for sale. The Crescent Building and the retail chain that built it exemplify this tradition.

The Crescent Building was completed in 1919 and is seven stories tall. The building was design by Loren L. Rand. The first floor is comprised of large bay windows, making window shopping an exciting tradition for visitors to the store. It also has windows on every floor, which was unusual for retail stores at the time. This gave the store an open an inviting feeling. People would eat lunch on the sixth floor and marvel at the view. It shares its historic traditions with such contemporary buildings as the Old City Hall, the US Bank Building, and the Smith Funeral Home. Constructed of reinforced concrete, it reflects Rand's emphasis on detail.

Rand moved to Spokane in 1888 just before the great fire. He built many buildings in downtown after the great fire of 1889. Some of his buildings include First Presbyterian Church, Marble Bank, Lewis and Clark High School, and many of the city's early grade schools.

This building is also a symbol for the company that built it. The original store was on West Riverside and opened on August 5, 1889, the day after the great fire. It was the only dry good store to survive the fire, because of this it sold out its entire stock on the first day. The owner, Robert B. Paterson, and his partner, Captain James M. Comstock, decided not to raise their prices to take advantage of the desperate situation. Soon the business had outgrown the little store and Paterson decided to open a new building. In 1914 they bought the property at the corner of Wall and Main for $125,000 with plans for another seven story building and in 1919 the building you see today was completed. Later they added escalators and were the first business in Spokane to have them. The police had to come to manage the crowds that showed up to try them out. In 1949 the Crescent purchased the Alexander Building directly south of the Crescent building on Wall Street. This extended the Crescent building by half a city block. At its peak the chain had seven stores in Washington and Oregon. In 1988 the Crescent ended its 99 year run and merged with a Seattle based company becoming Frederick and Nelson. However, the new company never caught on and soon went bankrupt in 1991 and the Crescent building officially closed in 1992.


Department Stores in America
Black and white photos courtesy of Library of Congress, online collections. Color photos courtesy of Jesse Roberts
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