East Central Spokane: A Streetcar Suburb
The East Central Neighborhood was one of the first streetcar suburban developments in Spokane, along with Nettleton’s and Browne’s Additions. Streetcars played a crucial role in allowing Spokane to develop suburban residential areas. One of these areas was a large tract of land to the east known as East Central Spokane. In those days the streetcar lines were built by the real estate speculators to entice prospective buyers to their area. Before the widespread availability of the automobile, an essential element of city life was access to streetcars that enabled citywide mobility. Eventually, the Spokane streetcar system was expanded to move people around the region and connect to the broader freight lines that already existed. Spokane Street Railway Company originally planned to have a line serving East Central’s Liberty Park by November of 1891. This first line was finally completed in May of 1892.
By 1918, two streetcar companies and one regional interurban electric train served East Central. Streetcar lines were operated by Washington Water Power Company and the Spokane Traction Company. The Washington Water Power streetcar ran east from downtown on 4th Avenue, changing over to 5th Avenue, continuing onto Arthur Street and turning south through what is now the South Perry Business District, before ending on 14th Avenue. Spokane Traction Company’s first line ran portions of Magnolia, 3rd and 5th Avenues. Later, the Spokane Traction Company ran their line from downtown on 3rd Avenue, turning south on Sherman Street, then continuing east on 10th Avenue bisecting the South Perry Business District and continuing along 11th and 12th Avenues to South Altamont Boulevard. This line provided the access needed to settle the ridge of the southern areas of East Central.
The regional interurban line through East Central and the Frequency Changing Station at Liberty Park were built by wealthy mining mogul J.P. Graves in 1905. Graves, who also owned the Spokane Traction Company, had a vision of providing transportation between Spokane and the Palouse wheat country. He also envisioned small towns being established along the interurban line by people living in the Palouse and riding his train to Spokane for work and recreation. This regional interurban line connected people to destinations such as Spangle, Oaksdale, Colfax and eventually Moscow, Idaho.
Today, a portion of J.P. Graves’ interurban line is now the Ben Burr Trail which connects Liberty Park and Underhill Park. Ben Burr, who was district engineer for the Great Northern Railroad was instrumental in helping the Spokane Parks Department acquire the old railroad right-of-ways. Ben Burr retired from the Great Northern Railroad in 1950. Ben Burr died in 1965, but his name is still used for parks, subdivisions and street names throughout the city.
Spokane’s First Golf Course
Another unique feature in the neighborhood was Spokane’s first golf course. Golf was formally introduced to Spokane in 1897. Mr. and Mrs. F. Lewis Clark enjoyed the game so much they transformed the extremely large backyard of their Marycliff mansion into a temporary golf course for themselves and their friends.
In East Central a large holding of land was chosen to have the first golf course built on it along with a clubhouse. Today, the 1895 clubhouse at 1303 E. 14th is a home. The home is not a listed structure, but it is a very important part of Spokane’s past. The golf course was located east of South Perry Street between 12th and 14th Avenues. This first course was a nine hole course. The course consisted of dirt and sand for the greens and fairways, with tin cans for cups. Streetcars provided easy access to the clubhouse and course from downtown. The streetcar at this time terminated at Newark Street. At Newark Street a team of horses pulling a cart or an automobile brought the golfers up to the clubhouse. The first tee was in front of the clubhouse with the greens, fairways and cups located across what is now South Perry Street.
In 1899, the Clarks, along with other influential people in Spokane, held the first meeting of the Spokane Country Club. Kirtland Cutter, F. Lewis Clark, J.P. Graves, and W.H. Cowles were among the founding members of the club. Yearly membership was five dollars in the early years. Each member received the regalia of the club which consist of a bright red coat with brass buttons and a stitched S.C.C. insignia.
In 1903, the club moved the golf course to a new location farther to the south at South Grand Boulevard and 33rd Avenue. J.P. Graves had recently installed a new streetcar line into the area. The streetcar provided perfect access to the new location. Later, Lewis and Clark High School purchased the property and today it is Hart Field. In 1910, the city was experiencing the pressure of rapid population growth. As a result the club moved once more to the Spokane Country Club’s current location along the Little Spokane River north of the city.