Posts Tagged ‘The Spokane Plantation’

plantation
Mark Baier and his partner David Birge deserve a medal for what they are doing to the old historic building at the corner of Sprague and Vista. I would actually call it important to the Valley as it preserves a small piece of the past, while at the same time promising enjoyment in the present and future. For a while there, I would have bet that corner would have gone the way of the old Ethan Allen building and others throughout the neighborhood that got flattened into car lots.
The building sat vacant for months, stripped of its equipment, for sale and unwanted. Because of the state the building was in after years of neglect, and other issues, nobody wanted to touch it even for the land-only price of $160,000. Demolition of a 10,000 square foot old building just to get the land apparently did not pencil out. Gus Johnson has a pretty good head on his shoulders and I know he looked at it.
I also know a guy named Jesse who looked at it seriously with the idea of bringing it back to life as a night club which it had been for decades. He said mold and asbestos issues made remodeling a losing proposition. I myself thought about the possibilities and even had someone who was thinking about buying the building if Elaine and I wanted to go back in as the Rock Inn, the night club and restaurant we had run years before in that beloved location. Unlike Jesse, I knew the night club business and so I did not need to look at the building.
That building’s demise was set in stone decades before when it was doubled in size, adding what was back then called a dance hall to the established restaurant and bar. It might have been a good move back in the 50’s or early 60’s when the cops told drunk drivers to pour out their drinks on the side of the road and drive straight home and back when there were likely few if any hopping nightspots that size in the Valley. Our landlord, Jack Riley, used to tell me about the good old days when his aunt, Rose Townsend, ran the place. “Craig,” he said a dozen times as we sat and had a few drinks at the bar, “this place is a goldmine.”
That is what I and a very long line of risky business owners thought when we signed his lease. The goldmine soon revealed itself as the money pit. What I took away from my four years is that the building was too big and the business you had to run there was too big as well. It should never have been anything more than just the restaurant and bar. That is how it should have remained and how it is now returning. And I say kudos to them and congratulations to the Valley.
The land itself was historic long before the building was built. The rock pyramid in front is a commemorative marker to the Mullen trail. It was a special place on the old trail where the Walla Walla wagon road intersected and many travelers ended the day’s journey and camped for the night. Slowly the Dishman business area grew around it and the storybook stone building was built to house a zoo with rodeo grounds in the back.
Continuing the location’s destiny as a public gathering spot, the stone buildings were eventually remodeled into the restaurant and bar. It was a place worth keeping and preserving way back in the 40’s and even more so 70 years later. It is one of those odd looking places that you have know idea what you are getting into as you enter and once you are in you are still not sure. You just know that the whoever dreamed up the design and built it out of native stone and virgin logs was a creative and talented and skilled craftsman.
Longer than anywhere else that I am aware of in the area, Valley folks have been eating and drinking and enjoying a few moments of their allotted time in this warm and impressive and unique dining room. Now Mark and David have rescued this castaway from cremation.They own the two adjoining parcels west of the old Plantation building and they originally planned to demolish it.
Luckily, they realized that it was too unique and beloved and historic to reduce to a pile of rubble. Mark said he does not want to even advertise for a tenant until he restores it according to his vision as close as possible to it’s original glory.