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Davenport Hotel, Spokane

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4:10 p.m. Jan. 26

I'm down with the tradition at the Davenport Hotel and Tower in downtown Spokane, Wash.
Opened in 1914, the Davenport was America’s first hotel with air conditioning. It was also the first hotel with housekeeping carts---designed by owner Louis Davenport.
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were guests at the Davenport. Der Bingle launched his career as a drummer across the street from the hotel at the newly restored neo-Classical Bing Crosby Theater. Steroid free slugger Babe Ruth was a guest. Authors Zane Grey and Dashiell Hammet wrote scenes while staying in “the house of comfort” as the Davenport was promoted. I always thought “The House of Comfort” was a Bourbon Street “spa.” Here's a hot photo gallery which is part of the hotel's website:
http://www.thedavenporthotel.com/index.php?act=/gallery.
Check it out. And enjoy these other tidbits......
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Once a bastion for railroads and timber, Spokane has reinvented itself as a community for higher education, software design and as a medical service locale for the region. But Jeanna Hofmeister, vice-president and director of destination marketing, Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau told me that in 2004 Spokane spent more money on historic preservation than the rest of the state combined.
Spokane is the largest city (225,000 pop.) on a straight line between Seattle and Minneapolis. Denver is considered too far south for Spokanites. That's cute. When Spokane hosted Expo ‘74, it became the first city to host an environmentally themed world’s fair.
Today the Davenport has 283 rooms, or 122 fewer than when it debuted. Spokane was all aglow when the Davenport opened in 1914. I picked up a reproduction copy of the Aug. 30, 1914 Spokesman-Review in the hotel gift shop. The newspaper celebrated the arrival of “The New Two Million Dollar Hostelry of Spokane” pointing out the hotel had “20 clocks in as many public rooms facing you.” I only spent one night at the Davenport, but I quickly sensed that Mr. Davenport wasn’t such a modest fellow. He insisted that coins be washed and bills be pressed through housekeeping before being given in change.
I’ve had blind dates like that.
And the Crab Louis is on the dinner menu ($18) in honor of Louis Davenport. Davenport was a nationally famous restauranteur who had been offering fresh seafood on his menus going back to the 1890s. He conjured up the salad, made on a bed of lettuce with fresh crab meat (or lobster), hard-boiled egg, sliced tomato and lively pink dressing mayonnaise, ketchup and hot sauce). In proud tones Davenport spokesman and Spokane television personality Tom McArthur said, “For awhile San Francisco claimed they were first (at the St. Francis Hotel or Solari’s restaurant), but our voice was silent for 15 years (1985-2000, when the Davenport was closed). After I showed the San Francisco Convention and Visitor’s Bureau our menu from 1914, that trumped theirs from 1917!”
The fanfare is humble but meaningful at the Davenport.

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2 Comments

Hey Dave,

A "steroid free slugger Babe Ruth as guest" may been true, but was he free of whiskey, cigars, hot dogs and other entertainment while he was a guest at the Davenport? I'll bet he drank the place dry during his stay and the staff was doing cart wheels when the Bambino finally boarded the Empire Builder for his trip home.

Mike

Mike! Stay tuned for more on Babe!!!

Dear Dave,
I want to thank you for the great article about Spokane and The Davenport Hotel. I didn't grow up in Spokane, Wa. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. This fact actually helps me think, because I feel more appreciative of the town that I choose to live in. I love being a tourist in my own town.
If you ever come back this way...I would love to show you more of our great city. We are the small town that thinks its big!
Interesting trivia:
The first Father's Day was created by a resident of Spokane. Mrs. Dodd in 1908 and it was held offically June 19, 1910.
Living here is great and the weather is a lot more interesting than all of the rain I had to deal with as a child in Portland.

Cheers!
Marianne Guenther

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.

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