Blair Business College

Ghost Signs of Spokane Tour

At the corner of First and Post Streets stands a squat brick building upon which is painted "Blair Business College." The faded sign is visible from blocks away, but few people understand its importance to the educational system of Spokane in the early twentieth century.

In a rapidly-expanding industrial economy, the business college was designed to churn out clerks, typists, and bookkeepers. Before the standardization of education in the second decade of the 20th century, most Americans lived in rural settings where education beyond high-school was not common. Furthermore, in the environment of rapid urbanization and industrialization, people left jobs in the countryside to train for more technical jobs in business and industry. Blair Business College offered practical education to those whose small budgets or lack of aptitude made them ill suited to the university. Instead, students prepared for pragmatic careers by taking courses in shorthand, penmanship, typewriting, and bookkeeping. Blair Business School, like many others, also doubled as a sort of supplemental high school, offering grammar, English, and Latin classes in addition to an abbreviated summer-school session.

Blair Business School was, by all accounts, quite a successful enterprise. H.C. Blair organized the school in 1897, and within a few years over five hundred students were enrolled. The college advertised in rural newspapers aggressively, drawing prospective students from all over the Pacific Northwest. It also fielded baseball, basketball, and football teams that seem to have maintained consistently abominable losing records against Gonzaga, Washington State University, and even the local high schools.

The school closed in 1933 during the height of the great depression. The building still stands today as condo space for the re-vitalized downtown district.



The Stair War
The Spokane Press Article Courtesy of the Library of Congress Read by Lee Nilsson
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