Spokane History Timeline

Manito Park and Mirror Lake - 1905

In 1884, Francis Cook bought 40 acres at the top of the Grand Blvd hill, where the Cathedral of St. John now stands. He developed a farm there just outside the townsite. Two years later he purchased another 160 acres which includes all of the present Manito Park. He called the area Montrose Park. Cook planned to develop homesites in the area. He built a trolley line so potential buyers could have transportation to and from the area (1888). Unfortunately there was a depression in 1893 and Francis Cook lost the property. The depression was over by 1901. One newspaper headline read “will give a fine park … city may secure 80 acres” that same paper announced the boundaries of the park. It also said the new name of the park. Once called Montrose, meaning Mountain of roses, the name was changed to Manito. People thought that that meant hilltop when it really meant spirit of nature.


Manito Park 1905-07
L94-57.50 - Manito Park Zoo, 1905-1907

Manito is 90 acres and was donated to the citizens of Spokane by the Spokane Washington Improvement Company, the Washington Waterpower Company, Spokane and Montrose Motor Company, E.P. Hogan, and Hypotheek bank. The companies thought that it was a good investment because they had trolley lines running out to Montrose. They wanted to have a reason for people to use the streetcars.

The grand entrance to Manito Park was taken away in 1909. It was originally an arch that had colored ivy trained into the words “SEE SPOKANE SHINE.”


Tennis was a very popular activity at Manito. So much so that 2 new courts had to be placed in the park. Manito has four courts. The original courts are located at 17th and Grand. Money was tight for Manito. The first swing set was made out of old power poles. They had to make do with what they had. They didn’t have the money to buy playground equipment.

Parts of Manito

Manito Zoo Foxes
L86-219.726 - Manito Park Foxes

Manito Park had many fun attractions such as the zoo, the peanut shack (park bench café), Duncan gardens, Gaiser conservatory, duck pond, playground, and owl castle. The zoo took up one third of Manito’s 80 acres. The zoo was the main attraction. The bears were the most popular of what the zoo had to offer. Manito’s zoo contained many animals such as ostriches, kangaroos, buffalo, elk, deer, muskrat, beaver, monkeys, polar, black and grizzly bears. There were various birds and waterfowl such as ducks and geese.

One of the things that many people believed led to the closing of the zoo was when a little girl was feeding one of the polar bears. The bear that took the food accidentally drew blood. The other bear was attracted to the blood. It came in and bit the girl’s arm. The workers were so terrified that in an effort to pull the girl away, her arm got ripped right off. The girl claimed that it was her fault and that the bear should be left alone. The zoo stayed open for about another 8 years for a total of about 3 decades. It had to close when the Great Depression set in because they didn't have enough money to feed the animals.

Manito Zoo Bear
L96-39.64C - Manito Park Bears

The Park Bench Café was originally known as the peanut shack. The peanut shack was a place to buy refreshments, food for tourists and peanuts for the monkeys. The last remaining parts of the zoo are a few bars, chains and hooks lodged in the rock face behind the parkside cafe which used to be the peanut shack. It is now called the Park Bench Café in the summer they sell food such as hotdogs, chips, and refreshments.


Mirror Lake or the Duck Pond

The duck pond (mirror lake) used to be larger, but would dry up in the summer. Mirror Lake was a popular canoeing spot. You were able to rent canoes on site.  After a severe ice storm 70 trees had to be cut down on the Shore of Mirror Lake. 90 new trees were planted as replacements of the old ones. Francis Cook liked to take long walks with his family at Mirror Lake. The lake was fed by springs. There used to be a dance pavillion next to the lake. Mirror Lake and Goat Hill were very special places. In the winter, people ice skated and went sledding. In the Spring and Summer the park was popular for family picnics and band concerts.

Duncan Gardens

Duncan Garden was formerly called sunken garden because it was basically a garden in a hole. Duncan garden has extremely fertile soil. Soil from Duncan gardens was spread all around Manito Park. Duncan garden was built and designed by John W Duncan in 1913. It was expanded and re-designed in 1996 but kept its original formal, essence. In the middle of the garden there is a light gray granite fountain. Mrs. L.M. Davenport gave it to the park. The fountain was made in memory of her late husband Mr. Davenport who was a member of the Spokane Park Board.

Gaiser Conservatory was named after Dr. David Gaiser who was on the board for many years. The greenhouse contains plants from all over the world. The greenhouse has displays of flowers and plants like trees and cacti. The display changes with holiday and season.

Rose Hill and Japanese Garden

Rose Hill stands higher than all the other gardens in Manito Park. It consists of only roses. There are new hybrids, old, and antique roses. The park was originally named for all the roses. After planning, discussing and fundraising for twelve years, the Japanese garden was finally possible. A famous Japanese park designer was brought to Spokane to design the garden. The garden keeps the peaceful, serene Japanese style.

Manito Park played a big part in the development of Spokane. It brought people to a new neighborhood. Manito was considered to be way out there. Now Manito is basically in the center of Spokane. A neighborhood was developed around the park. 



Bamonte, Susan and Tony. Manito park: a reflection of Spokane’s past. Spokane: Tornado Creek Publications, 2004

Peak Video Productions. A Reflection of Spokane’s past, producers Robin Briley and Jim Bosley, 2004.



Photos used with permission from Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture/Eastern Washington State Historical Society.

L94-57.50 - Manito Park Zoo, 1905-1907
L86-219.726 - Manito Park Zoo Wolves
L96-39.64C - Manito Park Zoo Bears

copyright (c) 2000, 2012
Discovery School.
All rights reserved.
Reports completed in 2000; May 2011
Revised: September 22, 2002;10/4/2009; 8/1/2011
Last Modified on January 4, 2012