Cheney Electric Light Works and Leifer Apartments

A sign of prosperity in the rural countryside

From generating electricity to embalming corpses, this 19th-century Cheney building has had many uses.

Being the first of its kind in a small and rural town in Eastern Washington, the Cheney Electric Light works and Leifer Apartments was a sign of advancement and prosperity. The building itself was three stories and was built at a cost of $15,000, with the basement being a semi-subterranean stone structure. The machinery that produced electricity was located in the basement. The power producing machine used a fuel source that would generate steam and turn two “incandescent dynamos.” To release the carbon/smoke from the burning fuel, the building had a fifty-foot smoke stack behind it.

The main level of the building, was designed as a storage space or commercial use. Since its creation in 1890, the upper level of the building was always used as a multi-unit residential rental space. In 1897, the lower level was occupied by a carpenter shop and used for storage. This continued until 1908.

In 1916, the electrical operation moved and the commercial spaces switched renters, thus it was rented out by an undertakers and picture framing business. The buildings commercial space continued to experience change. In 1939 a soda bottling company and a local telephone company used the space, while the upper level was still used as tenements. In the 1940’s the commercial space was used for laundry until the 1950’s when the whole lower level was converted to into apartments, which it is still used today. The building changed its name and is now known as the Leifer Apartments.

The architecture of the building is both unique and common at the same time. The sides and rear exterior walls of the Liefer building are covered with common red brick. While the front façade is covered with brick, which is also covered with a stucco veneer. The stucco veneer has lines carved into it to create a look of concrete or masonry blocks.