Riverfront Park


Riverfront Park

Riverfront Park

Spokane, WA

A Case Study Overview

By Melanie Petroskey – LARC 460


Riverfront Park is located in the

heart of Spokane along the

Spokane River.

•Bound on the south end by

Spokane Falls Boulevard.

•Bound on the east by Division


•Exit 281 off of Highway I-90

General Park Info..

• Built 1975

• Cost: $30,000,000

• Size: 100 Acres

including waterways,

about 50 acres useable

park land

• Managed by the City

of Spokane and the

Parks Department

• Avg. yearly

maintenance costs

$700,000 includes

grounds and facilities


• Was to be a “self –

sustaining park”

• Commercialism of

park fought by


• James Glover founded

Spokane Falls in 1873.

• Very few people lived in

the area. Mostly the

native Indians.

• Trade with the natives


• Glover built a general

store to supply residents

with daily necessities

• Indians ferried people

across river

At the Beginning

• Industry began to move

into the area.

• Flour mill set up on the


• Edison Electric plant built

on the river. Supplied

town with hydroelectric


• Soon the railroad set up on

the islands in the river.

• River was covered with

tracks, bridges, power

lines and soon forgotten.

• The town flourished with

the industry.

• Grew from 20 to 350

people in 3 years.

• By 1889 the population

was 21,000

• 1910 the population was


• The river became polluted

• The downtown air

contained large amounts

of carbon monoxide

• Olmsted Brothers create

master plan for the Great

Gorge Park along the river

Citizens Concern…

• Spokane citizens soon

became concerned for the

health of the river and the


• No more fish swam the


• Downtown was dirty

• Crime was abundant under

the railroad trestles.

• Shopping centers soon

began popping up outside

of the downtown.

• Malls more accessible

with the automobile.

Planning a World’s Fair

• Coincided with Spokane’s

100 th Birthday and the

nations 200 th .

• Themed on the


• Railroads and industry

moved off the river.

• Construction began.

• 1972 US President

announced that

Spokane,Wa would host a

World’s Fair.

• Expo ’74 was a success.

• Over 5.2 million people

attended the 6 month fair.

• 11 nations participated

• Gave way to the citizens

dream for a downtown

urban park.

• Spokane was the smallest

city to ever host a World’s

Fair at the time.

Expo ’74 Master Plan

• Perron Partnership

helped design for the

park after the Expo.

• Spokane Unlimited

helped in bringing &

planning for the 1974

World’s Fair &


• Expo ’74 Architect

was Thomas Adkison

Those Involved…

Why Expo ’74 was Vital…

• Spokane River clean-up

• Downtown revitalized

• Introduced fish back into

the river during opening


• Land designated open

space after the Expo

• Structures became

landmarks, I.e. US

pavilion, Carousel

building, Clock Tower,

Opera House &

Convention Center

Photos courtesy www.roundamerica.com

Riverfront Park Today…

• Highly programmed

• High-use urban park

• Historically significant

• Easy to find

• Unique setting


• Sculpture Walk

• Ice Rink & Pavilion


• Looff Carousel

• Wellness Walk

• 4 th of July Celebration

• Concerts in the park

• Pig out in the Park

• IMAX theater & film


• Lilac Festival

• Etc….

Bloomsday Sculpture along Spokane

Falls Blvd.

Canada Island Amphitheater

Ice Rink under the Pavilion

Future Plans for the Park

• Phase out of Pavilion

activities to the North


– Pavilion would become a

passive area

• 2020 plan for the park

– Security concerns

– Creating set guidelines for

the parks future

– Acquisition of the north


Olmsted Brothers Vision Realized…

• 1908 Olmsted Brothers

Landscape Arch firm out of

New York had a vision for

Spokane River Gorge.

• Great Gorge Park would

extend from Riverfront Park

west along the Spokane


• In 1994 a group called

Friends of the Falls revived

this vision and is currently

in the planning process

Study area diagram courtesy of www.friendsofthefalls.org

Thank you for coming

Main resources: “The Fair and the Falls” by J.William T. Youngs; “Expo ’74 World’s Fair Spokane” by Dawn Bowers; Craig Butz, Spokane Parks Dept.;

Picture resources: “The Fair and the Falls”; “Expo ’74 World’s Fair Spokane”; www.roundarmerica.com; Melanie Petroskey

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