Think downtown hasn't changed in the last 50 years? Today we take a look at a few city blocks that made some headlines this week. Armed with only a scanner, old maps, and Photoshop we went to work splicing and dicing the above aerial photos. They show two dramatically different views of the blocks between Spokane Falls Blvd and Main from Howard to Browne. The photo on the left is obviously current day 2007. Lots of ashpalt dedicated to the temporary storage of cars and few buildings. The photo on the right shows the same view but with an overlay of building footprints from 1952. All colored areas represent buildings with most being multiple stories and almost all brick.
You're looking at what was then considered Spokane's Skid Row (aka Trent Alley). A mix of single-room-occupancies, taverns, restaurants, and slew of stores labeled "Chinese" embedded on the inner blocks reachable only by the narrow alleys. On the single block between Washington and Bernard in 1952 we counted two hotels, eight restaurants, and forty-four store fronts. Now that's some commercial density, and a dramatically different city than we see today.
So what happened during the past 50 years? A variety of forces were in play that have been covered here previously, but most notably for Spokane (and these blocks in particular) was Expo '74. When you're throwin' a party for the world yer gonna need some parking across the street, so large sections of city blocks were cleared...and thirty-three years later it persists.