The Hillyard Historic Business District's buildings, virtually untouched on the outside, tell a hundred-year-old story.
Around 1892, when Jim Hill sought out a West Coast connector for his railroad operations in Minnesota, he created a hub for the Great Northern Railroad and, in the process, the town of Hillyard.
That former town's testimony has put Hillyard's business district on track to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.
In June the city's Historic Landmarks Commission approved the nomination for a spot in the National Register. Next week representatives will make a presentation to the State Advisory Committee in Walla Walla.
By January 2002, the Keeper of the Record at the National Park Service in Washington D.C. could make it final.
If that happens, the Hillyard Historic Business District would become Spokane's first neighborhood and commercial historic district added to the National Register of Historic Places.
"This is the work of a lot of people over a long period of time," said Paul Hamilton, chairman of the Hillyard Neighborhood Council, the nominating group. "The cool thing is we have a unique historic district here in Hillyard that few people know about."
Not only would the buildings be federally recognized, there would be tax investment incentives for business owners who renovate the buildings' interiors.
There also would be protection from federal money being used to demolish or alter the buildings.
"With so many buildings being demolished, Hillyard stands out as a piece of living history. You don't have to look at a picture in a history book, you can go to Hillyard and touch the buildings," said Linda Yeomans, the private preservation consultant who wrote the district's nomination.
The buildings, most of which boast the names of the architect in block letters at the top, are historically intact and in use.
The Keyhoe building, named after Thomas Keyhoe, had a hardware store and saloon on the first floor. The second floor was used for a single-occupancy hotel.
The old saloon is now B and B Junk Company, an antique mall. The old hotel is used for low-income housing.
"This is the most architecturally intact neighborhood left in Spokane. Most of it looks as it did 90 years ago," said Teresa Brum, the Historic Preservation Officer for the city working on the project.
One qualifier for the National Register is that the property must have at least 50 percent of its historic buildings intact. Hillyard's district has 85-95 percent of its history still in place, Brum said.
The main criteria is that the property is associated with significant events or patterns in history.
Hillyard's Historic Business District spans three blocks on North Market from Olympic to Everett avenues.
The district is the centerpiece of the town that was built around the Great Northern Railroad hub.
The manufacturing center for Great Northern, once rumbling one block east of Market Street, produced the largest, heaviest and most powerful steam locomotives in the world, according to Yeomans.
Researching the area's historical significance was an effort that saw Yeomans through graduate school and into her profession.
In 1996, she was in the graduate class at Eastern Washington University who did the buildings' inventories.
Of the 30 buildings in the district, Yeomans tells stories that speak of a thriving working-class community, and of Spokane's most notable architects.
Like the Hillyard Laundry Building, built in 1906.
"This building was occupied by some of Spokane's first Japanese immigrants and has been operating as the Hillyard Laundry for 96 years," Yeomans said. "Another great building is the Pay-N'-Takit Building, which became the Safeway Store. It was designed by G.A. Pehrson, who also designed the Paulsen Building, and is an excellent interpretation of the art deco style in Spokane."
Another noteworthy building is the United Hillyard Bank Building, built in 1920, by partners Henry Bertelsen, and Kirtland Cutter. Cutter also designed the Patsy Clark Mansion, the Glover Mansion, the Spokane Club and the Davenport Hotel.
"Nothing has changed in the interior of the building," Yeomans said.
The Karenoia collectibles shop is housed in two buildings that look like one. The Bell and Victor buildings share a wall. Built by Victor Lagerquist, they are named after himself and his wife, Isabelle.
The business has been located on North Market for 12 years, after spending its first five years at several different locations.
"I like Hillyard best because of the people," said Karenoia owner Karen Tunininga."They have been here for years. They are the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the rail workers that started this town."