Salvation Finds a Home in Spokane

"Here no person shall be turned away"

32 years after the Salvation Army arrived in Spokane, the organization opened a new headquarters in what would become one of Spokane’s most recognizable historic buildings.

On April 3rd, 1922, Commissioner Gifford, the territorial commander of the Salvation Army, addressed hundreds of Spokane citizens who attended the dedication ceremony of the new headquarters at 245 W. Main. “The doors to this building shall always be open to the homeless and unfortunate that desire the care and assistance of the Salvation Army.” In the new building, the Salvation Army would continue the work the organization started when if first arrived in Spokane in 1891.

First making its way to the United States in 1880, the Salvation Army began with Reverend William Booth and his family in London, England. Booth took a rather unorthodox approach to spreading his “good word”. Rather than preaching in churches, he went directly to the people, often those who were overlooked or shunned, he ministered to “thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards.” This community outreach which started as simple proselytizing, grew into an organization that has helped feed, shelter, cloth, and care for those most in need in over 130 countries for the past 150 years.

The Salvation Army began its Spokane residence by nearly being banned for being a public nuisance, the noise from their brass instruments and drums startling the town’s main means of transportation at the time, horses. The attention from both the preaching and rabble rousing quickly swelled their ranks from 3 to nearly 200 within just a few years. Eventually overgrowing the offices they were occupying, in 1919 they purchased land on West Main Avenue for a new headquarters. The new location was projected to cost $125,000 and after an enormously successful fundraising effort, the building was completed in 1921.

Designed by architect Archibald Rigg, who designed several other of Spokane’s buildings including the Altedenia Apartments and The Masonic Temple, the brick building consists of 3 floors and a basement level, which held a swimming pool, gymnasium, and kitchen. The main floor held the meeting areas and offices, while the second and third floor became single-occupancy rooms that were rented out at a subsidize price which became known as The Red Shield Hotel. One unique design feature of this building is visible in the first-floor windows. Rather than making large arching window a feature of higher floors, like most other Spokane buildings, Rigg designed these to exist on the first floor.

The Salvation Army would occupy this location, helping those in need for 50 years. During the Great Depression, dozens would wait in line for a donut and coffee, a tradition started by the organization in France during World War I. In 1972 The Salvation Army changed headquarters. A short-lived tavern occupied the first floor until 1981 after which the building stood vacant for almost 20 years. In 1999 the owners of Luigi’s, a local Italian restaurant, purchased and revamped the building, turning the first floor and mezzanine into restaurant space and the second and third floors into offices. While the inside of the building may have dramatically changed, the outside preserves its historic look being one of the few buildings in Spokane to retain its original marquee.