Ben Burr Trail
Since 1881, with the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad, Spokane has been the hub of commerce in the Inland Northwest. The first railroads transported materials to Spokane along with new residents hoping for new opportunities in the Inland Northwest. Trains played an essential role in Spokane’s early development. Spokane’s rail system was expanded to include streetcars and dedicated regional passenger trains.
The first streetcar line into East Central was finally completed by the Spokane Street Railway Company in May of 1892. It was at this time the idea of a regional passenger train emerged. The idea was to connect Spokane and Coeur d’Alene with a 28 mile train line. This line would be able to carry freight as well as passengers. The Spokane Street Railway Company never built the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene line, but this interurban line was eventually built in 1903 by Idaho lumberman, F.A. Blackwell. The train line transported passengers to Coeur d’Alene from downtown Spokane. By this time Spokane was already a booming metropolitan city. Wealthy mining entrepreneur, J.P. Graves, witnessed the success of the line and loved the idea. Soon Graves partnered with F.A. Blackwell to pursue another train line into the Palouse. In 1904 Graves and his partners built the Palouse train line and created the Spokane & Inland Empire Railroad Company, an umbrella company for both of the interurban lines. Both of the new trains connected Spokane with other towns and cities throughout the region. The interurban line in East Central connected people to destinations such as Fairfield, Garfield and Colfax. Blackwell and Graves’ other Spokane-Coeur d’Alene Interurban line connected people to leisure destinations such as Liberty, Hayden and Coeur d’Alene lakes. Each of the lakes had what was referred to as a recreation park or resort. F. Lewis Clark and J.P. Graves each owned lakeside recreation resorts. Today, a portion of the old Spokane & Inland Empire Interurban line is now the Ben Burr Trail which connects Liberty Park to Underhill Park.