Spokane’s grand hotel, Expo site mark milestones this summer

  • Stories and Photos by Linda Jenkins Special to The Herald
  • Thursday, June 5, 2014 4:49pm
  • Life

Some grand ladies don’t mind telling their age.

Spokane’s Davenport Hotel, stalwart of luxury in the Inland Northwest, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. The landmark, carefully restored and reopened in 2002, caps a century of elegance in Washington’s second-largest city with the naming of a new hotel for the Davenport Collection.

The Grand Hotel Spokane is slated to open in the summer of 2015 near the Spokane Convention Center, adding more than 700 guest rooms in Spokane, more than doubling the Davenport Collection’s inventory and providing another modern option for meetings in this convention-friendly city.

The Davenport Hotel isn’t the only one celebrating in Spokane this summer. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Expo ‘74, Spokane’s World’s Fair. Hosting Expo ‘74 was a boom for the city, bringing in 5.2 million visitors over six months.

Expo ‘74 gave Spokane its Riverfront Park, an urban oasis along the Spokane River. Like much of the environmentally themed Expo structures, the park wasn’t meant to be permanent. Still, it continues to be enjoyed in the heart of a city that champions its public art and open spaces.

Spokane is a proud city that holds on to its best memories. With a hearty, confident outlook and a warm welcome for visitors, Spokane has a lot to celebrate.

Spokane’s living room

A treasured destination for many travelers around the Northwest, the opulence of the Davenport Hotel belies this 1914 landmark’s place in the hearts of Spokane’s locals. The Davenport Hotel is known affectionately as “Spokane’s living room,” and stands at the center of a vibrant, walkable downtown core.

The life’s work of restaurateur and hotelier Louis Davenport, today the hotel shines with what had been hidden under the remnants of time and changing tastes. The hotel passed through 11 owners after Davenport’s death and closed in 1985. Facing demolition, it was rescued in 2000 by Spokane real estate developers Walt and Karen Worthy.

It reopened to much fanfare in 2002. Some 13,000 people queued for blocks to tour the restored landmark. Matt Jensen, marketing director for Davenport Collection, remembers the excitement. “This is the community’s hotel. They could not wait to see their grand hotel being reopened.”

Today’s Davenport Hotel is a jewel box of public galleries and ballrooms. The 100-year-old design, inspired by the European grand tour aesthetic of the time, manages to feel fresh and personal, much like modern Spokane. The Davenport is a place to linger, put away your smartphone and imagine life in another time.

Hosting the world

The World’s Fair gave Spokane its 100-acre Riverfront Park, a stage for the many events and exhibitions of Expo ‘74. Formerly a railway industrial area, the creation of Riverfront Park opened up river access for visitors and city residents.

The Spokane River cuts through the park and the churning Upper Falls can be viewed from well-maintained paths and foot bridges. SkyRide, a set of cable-suspended gondolas, floats just above the Lower Falls nearby.

The Louff Carousel is a nostalgic landmark leading into the park. In summer, Spokane gathers for outdoor movies on the park’s lawn. The 24-foot Rotary Fountain is a favorite spot to cool off and the oversized Red Wagon, a gleaming play structure, gives kids a fun destination of their own.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a place to reflect and honor local soldiers. The bronze sculpture, created by artist Deborah Copenhaver Fellows, bears the names of 300 Vietnam veterans from the Spokane area.

Spokane’s Mayor David Condon was born in 1974, the year of the World’s Fair. He speaks proudly of Riverfront Park and the city’s Expo experience. “We were the smallest city to host an Expo. The community really came together,” he said.

“Visitors are simply amazed,” Mayor said of the many outdoor spaces and activities around Spokane today. “We have the uniqueness of being able to enjoy the natural environment right in the city.”

Northwest travel and lifestyle writer Linda Jenkins lives in Arlington. Read her blog at www.twin-mom.com.

Eat and drink

With strong local support and easy access to Eastern Washington’s agricultural centers, Spokane has great chef-owned restaurants, hand-crafted beer and an urban wine experience. Hit some of the more than 30 breweries on Spokane’s Ale Trail (www.inlandnwaletrail.com) or taste Washington wines in the Cork District (www.corkdistrict.com). Foodies can grab a picnic from one of the many farmers markets, or line up at one of the popular food trucks for a bite.

Coming up in Spokane

Farm Chicks Antiques Show: Farm Chicks Antiques Show, Saturday and Sunday at the Spokane County Fairgrounds, with 300 curated spaces, is a huge draw for collectors and those looking for handmade inspiration. More at www.thefarmchicks.com.

Hoopfest: Spokane hosts the world’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament, June 28 and 29 for its 25th anniversary. More than 7,000 teams cover 42 city blocks for two days of competition. The city will be packed with players and onlookers enjoying outdoor entertainment. More at www.spokanehoopfest.net.

Andy Warhol: Gonzaga University’s Jundt Galleries will display a sampling of the 156 Polaroid and black and white photographs by Andy Warhol donated to the Jundt Art Museum by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, June 2 to Aug. 8. www.gonzaga.edu.

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