Spokane History Timeline

The Spokane Public Library – Comstock Building, 1961

The first library building was named the Carnegie library, which was Spokane’s first building to exclusively house the library. By 1926, the library had three branches: East side, North side, and Heath. The Carnegie building held the library until 1963. The early library history is covered in the 1903 Public Library report.

By the late 1950s, lots of people started to think that the Carnegie building was starting to get too small to house the library. There were lots of calls in the newspaper talking about a new library. In 1961, the Comstock Foundation purchased the former Sears store located at Lincoln and Main Streets, with the stipulation that the building be used for a Library. They presented it to the city later that year.

Inland Empire Railways Terminal Building - Library site
L207- - Terminal Building, Spokane Inland Empire Railways

The site had once been the Inland Electric Terminal Building. Sears Roebuck and Company purchased the site from the Spokane, Coeur d'Alene & Palouse Railway Company in 1929. The railway was very popular for weekend excursions to Liberty Lake and beyond, as well as to the Palouse region. The building was dismantled and rebuilt into an Art Deco style Sears building in 1929. The newspaper at the time of the Sears Store construction reported on the efforts to drive foundation piles into the ground for the new building. The construction workers found remains of debris from the “Great Fire of 1889” and people were reminded that once there had been a ravine with a creek trickling through down to the Spokane River.

“After the city's disastrous fire of 1889, the ravine became a depository of conflagration debris: "broken bricks, parts of old stoves, ruined safes, broken dishes, battered and twisted bed frames - everything that went into the construction and furnishing of early-day homes that flames could not consume." Spokesman Review, October 27, 1929.

Spokane Public Library Comstock Building
Former Sears and Roebuck Store converted to the Spokane Public Library Comstock Building, 1963

By 1960, the downtown stores were being abandoned for a move to the “suburbs” for easier shopping. Spokane Daily Chronicle of June 19, 1959, pg 33, announced the plans of Sears, Roebuck to build a new store at the Northtown Shopping Distric. “Size will triple the Northtown” center shopping area with a 208,000 ft store the headline read. The new store was to open in 1961. Thus after the Comstock Foundation presented the building to the city, the building was renamed the Comstock building, and the library moved its books in 1963. The new library opened for business on April 6, 1963.

By the late 1980s people thought that the library once again had outgrown it’s location. The Comstock building had become old and worn. They decided to tear down the old building and build a newer, more modern one on the same spot.

On September 18, 1990, voters passed a bond issue that would fund the construction of six new branches: the main branch downtown, Hillyard, Shadle, East side, South Hill, and the Indian Trail branch.
When construction began on the new downtown library in 1992, the entire collection of books in the library was temporarily moved to a building that had been a department store. In 1994, the collection was moved to the now finished library building that we have today. Then they started the construction on the other five branches. They were all finished by 1998.


Boughton , Jennie. Forty years of library service. Spokane : s.n., 1943.
Spokane -- Libraries -- Spokane Public Library -- History [vertical file].
Spokane Library History, Buildings and Branches: http://www.spokanelibrary.org/index.php?page=history#Buildings
Spokesman-Review, May 9, 1990:

HABS No. WA-194 (From the historic designation application for the Comstock Bldg).  Wa032data.pdf; page 8-9

Spokane Daily Chronicle, June 19, 1959. Pg 33.
Former Sears Building: Spokane Public Library.

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

L207- - Terminal Building, Spokane Inland Empire Railways

copyright (c) 2011, Discovery School.
All rights reserved.
Report created May, 2011.
Last Modified on January 3, 2012