On June 1, 1907, the Spokane Board of Park Commissioners began its duties with Aubrey Lee White (1869-1948) as president, a position he held for the next 15 years. White was the logical choice, having returned in 1906 from a six-year business sojourn in the East during which he became an expert on park development while working in many major Eastern cities. While there he saw land for parks purchased at inflated prices because these cities did not plan ahead. He was determined that Spokane would not make the same mistakes. White proved to be the most zealous among a number of Spokane civic leaders anxious to see the city provide a park within easy walking distance of all its residents. Read more (PDF 58 KB).
Nearly all of Spokane's many beautiful parks and parkways were first conceived by a legendary firm in park design and urban planning: the Olmsted Brothers, Landscape Architects, of Brookline, Massachusetts, of New York's Central Park fame. In 1907, Aubrey L. White (1868-1948), the first president of the young city's new Park Board, was determined to make Spokane into a model of modern park planning. Read more (PDF 70 KB).
In 1908 the Olmsted Master Plan for Spokane proposed an ambitious development that called for four massive new parks, five smaller local parks, 11 playfields, numerous parkways, and major improvements to 10 existing parks. Many of these recommendations were soon put into effect and by 1913, the city had multiplied its park acreage tenfold. Read the Report (PDF 1.2 MB).
Liberty Park was developed per the Olmsted Plan, but in the mid-1960s freeway construction bisected the park. Liberty Park was redeveloped east of its original site. What remains today, north of I-90, is the former West Entrance to Liberty Park at 3rd Avenue and Arthur Street. This area is known as the Liberty Park Ruins. The area contains many of the original basalt walls, stair cases, and view points from an original pergola and a shelter structure. View map (PDF 2.4 MB).
Today, many of Spokane's best-known parks, including Finch Arboretum, High Bridge, and Downriver Parks owe their existence to the Olmsted plan. Even pre-existing parks, including Manito Park, owe much of their aesthetic appeal to Olmsted suggestions.
The Olmsted Brothers even predicted that the City would one day reclaim the downtown riverfront, which in 1974 became the location for Spokane's World Fair, Expo '74, on the site known today as Riverfront Park.
On May 4, 1974, Spokane's Expo '74 World's Fair opened to the public. For nearly four months Spokane welcomed the world's visitors when it served as the smallest city at that time to conduct a World's Fair.
Thirty years later an adventure still awaits at Spokane's Riverfront Park with year-round rides and attractions for the entire family. The site also serves as a base for major community events and celebrations including Bloomsday, Hoopfest, Fourth of July, Spokane Falls Northwest Indian Encampment Pow Wow, Unity in the Community and Pig Out in the Park. Read more about Riverfront Park's History, Arts & Culture.
Information used with permission of HistoryLink.