May 27 2013

The Little Flour Mill That Could: Historic Preservation in Spokane, Washington

This historic industrial building  – gone commercial haven – success story begins with “The Biggest Man in Spokane,” Simon Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer, a prominent member of Spokane’s Jewish community, was one of the first in the area to go to Russia in search of investors. His efforts were fruitful after convincing a Dutch mortgage company to invest in his vision, and he built a sawmill and the aforementioned flour mill with a sizable lump sum.

The flour mill was completed in 1895, but the depression of 1893 had taken its toll on Oppenheimer’s dreams: he was bankrupt. He fled to South America. An enormous and historic legal battle ensued. The case left the flour mill unused until 1900, when it finally began to produce flour under the Washington Water Power company.

Outside of the Flour Mill, from the Northeast corner

In 1970, the mill was closed. Three years and two million dollars later, the mill reopened as the office/retail/restaurant mixed use building it is today. The next summer, the World’s Fair came to Spokane for “Expo ’74,” the first World’s Fair to ever feature sustainable living and urban design practices. (This was also the last time Spokane received national recognition until it topped the list for cheapest cities to move to after college in the U.S. two months ago.)

Today, The Flour Mill is still absolutely beautiful- both inside and out. Three businesses have called the old mill home since the initial renovation forty years ago.

Inside the Eastern half of the flour mill, there's a steakhouse, an event space, and the only African restaurant in the metro area

Due to its proximity to Riverfront Park and downtown, The Flour Mill is sure to stand the test of time so long as the granite underneath the foundation holds out against the Spokane River.

Are there any notable historical building renovations in your city? Tell us in the comments below!

Credit: References linked to sources. Photos taken by Aascot Holt.

Aascot Holt

Aascot Holt is an undergraduate at Eastern Washington University, pursuing a major in Urban and Regional Planning and a minor in Geography. She will graduate in the spring of 2013. She is from Stevenson, WA and currently lives in Spokane, WA in a brick 1936 kit house. She is most intrigued by small-city and small town planning, parks and recreation planning, long-range planning, and historic preservation. She hopes to continue her habit of being involved with many planning projects at a time, and fears being pigeonholed. Aascot maintains the “Being A Planning Student” Tumblr as well as her planning-centric blog, The Comprehensive. She is currently writing Cheney, WA’s entirely new comprehensive parks, recreation, and trails plan, completely pro bono. More can be learned about her endeavors via LinkedIn.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 27th, 2013 at 9:04 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, History/Preservation, Land Use, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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