Spokane Stockyards

A reminder of Spokane's agricultural past

From the 1880s to 1999, Spokane was a town of slaughterhouses. The Old Union Stockyards were the last of their kind.

It was the end of an era when Stockland Union Stockyards closed in 1999. Just off of North Freya, the area had been home to stockyards since 1915, when the Spokane Union Stockyards opened under the direction of brothers John H. and Walter D. Roberts.

The livestock market covered about 24 acres; there, livestock could be housed, fed, and cared for before being auctioned. Producers of cattle, hogs, sheep, and horses brought their stock to the yards and invited competitive bidding from farmers, nearby meat packing plants, and others. These producers paid the stockyards a fixed yardage charge and the value of the feed consumed by their stock.

The stockyard did not buy and sell stock; rather, it was a livestock exchange, where buyers and sellers made their transactions. The many railroad lines that converged on Spokane made it idea for cattle processing. Soon thousands of animals came through the yard each month.

Yet the Spokane Union Stockyards, reincorporated as Stockmen’s Union Stockyards in the mid-1920s, went into receivership and was eventually sold and reorganized in 1930 as Old Union Stockyards. In 1935 the new owners erected a new 2 and ½-story exchange building at 3810 E. Boone. The brick building cost $18,000 to build, and included offices, lockers, showers, and lounging rooms in the basement.

By 1950 the Old Union Stockyards was the largest central livestock market in Washington, with facilities for 3000 cattle, 500 calves, 1200 hogs, and 6000 sheep. By the mid-1960s, the yards had been reincorporated as Stockland Union Stockyards. It was the only market in the state to sell over 50,000 cattle in 1965.

The Old Union Stockyards began hosting the very popular Junior Livestock Show in the 1930s, and it continued there until 1965, when the show was moved to the fairgrounds. On May 11, 1950, President Harry Truman handed out awards to the girls and boys with their champion steer, hogs, and lambs. Mrs. Truman and daughter Margaret “seemed to enjoy watching the President pass our honors to youngsters whose animals had won prizes.” One of the show’s managers recalled that Truman pushed past his security guards in order to mingle with the young people.

By 1999, when the stockyards closed, the acreage had shrunk to just seven acres. A victim of the city’s progress, the yards had become surrounded by industry that soon took over the area. Business dynamics forced a move to Davenport.