Then and Now Gallery: Then and Now: California House – May 22, 2022


In 1874, city founder James Glover took over the land around Spokane Falls and began covering city streets. There were only a handful of families in the town, and housing for newcomers was scarce.

Arriving in early 1878, William C. Gray and his wife Clara, who came from California, paid $200 for a building site at Howard Street and Front Avenue, now called Spokane Falls Boulevard. The Grays spent their first nights in Spokane at the Western House, a boarding house for miners and cowboys that had opened in 1877. While building their own hotel, the Grays stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Post, a another pioneer family.

Grays’ California House Hotel, a two-story wood-frame building, opened with a festive feast on Thanksgiving Day in 1878.

The second floor of the accommodation was called the Corral, where single men could pay 50 cents to sleep on buffalo hides on the floor.

The hotel was a success. Writer Bob Emahiser, in a historic Spokane Chronicle article in 1964, wrote, “Nearly every significant person who has visited Spokane Falls, not to mention the men and women who helped build the city, signed up for California House.

He continued: “The dining room was a civic and social club. Gray judiciously administered as a host to Indians and villains as well as military officials, railroad executives, mining men and others and boasted that there had never been a shooting in the place. The gracious Mrs. Gray changed from calico to silk when the occasion demanded and was truly considered one of the leading ladies of the bustling community.

When news of the discovery of gold in Murray, Idaho broke, a stream of would-be miners piled into Spokane en route to the Coeur d’Alene mountains and every room was full for many months. .

Popularity prompted the Grays to add a third story to the building, making it the tallest wood-frame structure in the city at the time.

Shortly after, the roof burned down in May 1887, probably due to a faulty chimney. They rebuilt the hotel, named it the Windsor Hotel, and leased it to new operators. The Grays then moved to a farm north of town.

Windsor House was completely consumed in the Great Town Fire of August 1889.

In 1894, the new Spokane City Hall was erected on the site.


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