Monday, January 27, 2014

Two Spokane Street Scenes

I was digging around at the American Memory site at the Library of Congress today, looking for Spokane-related images. There is a lot to explore, including perhaps hundreds of images of American Indians in and around Spokane at different eras. One of my favorite images (and one of the earliest) is this 1879 street scene:
Spokane people lined up to receive food in front of Loenberg's Store,
Spokane, Washington, 1887
There is a lot to love about this image. This is very early in Spokane history. so it is a fairly rare image of Spokane in its frontier stage. I love how the Indian men and women are unposed--going about their daily lives in their regular clothes, very different from the staged photographs of Indians so commonly produced by white photographers for white audiences. I love the questions the image provokes--When did the Indian Agents dispense rations in Spokane, and when did this stop? Are any of the individuals identifiable? Why was this photograph made in the first place? Who is R. D. Gwydir?--I have seen the name of this Indian Agent before and I think one could assemble a decent biography. (Update: Check out this brief biography at Wikipedia--what an interesting character!)  And then there is the dog!

The other thing I love is the simple fact that there is an exact location provided: "Lomberg's store, Southeast corner of Howard Street and Front Avenue." So often the location of historic photographs is a matter of guesswork, and my work with Spokane Historical has made me acutely aware of the value of precise locations. Front Avenue was renamed Spokane Falls Boulevard for Expo '74.

A fun thing to when you do have an exact location for a historic photograph is to go into Google Street View and see what the scene looks like today:

Boo Radley's! A fun little local shop with funky gifts--my teenaged son loves the place, as do I. The building in the 1879 photo is long gone, of course, probably burned in the fire ten years later. I will think of that photograph every time I walk past this corner. 


James Stripes said...

Great photo!

One question: wasn't Front Street renamed Trent at some point, and then renamed Spokane Falls Boulevard in 1974?

Clayton Hanson said...

Larry, I have Kevin Dye's dissertation on the Gwydir manuscript.

He's currently an English instructor at Chemeketa Community College in Salem.

I've sent him an e-mail but you might be able to contact him for more information from his research.

Larry Cebula said...

James, I don't know. The Sanborn maps would sort out the history of the street name pretty quickly.

Clayton: I had no idea there was a dissertation on Gwydir. I so need to read it!

JesseTinsley said...

Thank you for the cool photo and background. Below is a link to a short history that references a store owner named Bernhard Loewenberg, who had a mercantile store in Spokane. He is likely the one referenced in the photo of the Indians waiting for their distribution. Loewenberg was burned out of business in the 1889 fire. Sadly, he had just built a luxury home in Browne's Addition, which he traded to E.J. Robert, an engineer who worked for railroad magnate Daniel Corbin. The house is now a bed-and-breakfast called the E.J. Roberts Mansion.