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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Then and Now: Post Street substation

The stately Washington Water Power building, perched prominently above the Spokane River's waterfalls, was built in 1909 and put into service in 1910. It's still serving the city's utility company, housing a substation that distributes the power from the two hydroelectric dams downtown.

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Image One Photo Archive | The Spokesman-Review
Image Two Jesse Tinsley | The Spokesman-Review

Then and Now: Post Street substation

City father James Glover, who bought the 160-acre town with a $50 down payment and a promise to pay the rest later, didn’t have the cash to develop Spokane into a proper city. So he lured new people with desirable skills and professions with plots of land. One of those people was Frederick Post, an immigrant from Herborn, Germany, who first settled in the area of Rathdrum and Post Falls in 1876.

Glover, who visited the area in 1873 then settled here in 1874, gave Post 40 acres in Spokane to encourage Post to build a flour mill. Post, who was trained as a millwright, built the flour mill and leased it to C&C Flour Mill, who expanded the mill while Post went back to his Idaho property to build his own water-powered mills on the Spokane River.

Post sold the Spokane flour mill just a few years later, in 1879, for $97,300.

Over the next decade, Post would sell the rest of his property to investors in the Washington Water Power Company, a new company focused on hydropower development. WWP’s first dam project was under construction during the great fire of 1889, but it survived and was completed and generating power by 1890, initially focused on powering downtown streetlights and the streetcar system.

By 1900, there were four large flour mills close by, and milling technology increased flour production. C&C merged with another company and WWP took over their old mill site.

The cavernous Washington Water Power building, marked by a green sign spelling out the original company name of what is now Avista, opened in 1910 and is now an electrical substation. Substations are an important part of any electrical distribution system, using transformers to step voltages up for longer transmission distances or down for local delivery.

The top architects of that period, Kirtland Cutter and Karl Malmgren, designed the building. Architect Robert Hyslop, Spokane’s architectural historian, wrote in his book “Spokane’s Building Blocks,” that WWP “felt obliged to express in architecture its vastness of power and what better site for this expression than the top of a cliff.”

Hyslop added that "the effect of the great brick fronts and high arched window openings to fairly hum with potential power."


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