The Spokane & Inland Empire Railroad started as a streetcar line, used largely for real estate development, and grew into a regional electric railway noted for its cutting edge technology and elegant sense of style. Jay P. Graves and the other men connected with the railroad, created land improvement companies designed to provide luxury resorts, as well as plan small towns. Within a few years, the rail lines would stretch from Spokane to Coeur d’Alene and Hayden lakes to the east, with another line heading south through the Palouse, splitting at Spring Valley to Colfax and Moscow.
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Excerpt from book:
In 1902, Graves was listed in the Blue Book of Spokane, which included the most successful and recognized members of society. These members included professional people, land speculators, merchants, mining and lumber magnates, who all knew each other because they traveled in the same social circles. “They met in exclusive clubs—the Spokane, the University and the Country; they directed businesses and banks, patronized theaters, summered at Coeur d’Alene, Liberty and Hayden Lakes, rode in chauffeured automobiles and relished recognition by the common people.[i]
These men also shared a vision of the kind of city Spokane should be. They believed a city could be beautiful, as well as utilitarian, a movement made popular nationwide at the World Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. This vision included artistic public buildings, monuments, parks, vistas and tree-lined avenues.[ii]
After more than two dozen blocks of Spokane’s downtown area burned in the fire of 1889, these men saw their chance to rebuild the city in their vision, this time mainly in brick and granite.[iii] As businesses prospered, the population of Spokane was growing quickly and housing was always in short supply. Better quality housing was in demand and the land speculation was at an all-time high. An opportunity had presented itself, and Graves and the others took it.
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