With the rustling of leaves upon cul-de-sac roads is that all too familiar eerie quiet around this time of year. It’s the silence overhanging neighborhoods when the children at play return to the classrooms with the new school year each fall.
While it is uncertain what the year may bring for students, the walls of local schools provide a sense of security thanks to their familiarity. After all, they’ve been serving the children of Spokane for decades now. Although some buildings may no longer be in use, these historic Spokane schools are still educating children literally in the history of the community.
Central Schoolhouse, District 49
21918 W. Four Mound Road, Nine Mile Falls
Built in 1903, this one-room schoolhouse has served as a focal point for our community’s educational and social activities since the turn of the twentieth century. Many of these schoolhouses were constructed in the area during the early 1900s, but this is the only one from the time that remains.
It served as a school until 1956, when students at Central School were consolidated with those at Rearden. After this, the Coulee Township acquired the building in 1958 as a meeting house. These days, the schoolhouse is owned by the West Greenwood Cemetery District and serves as a center for community events and gatherings.
John A. Finch School
3717 N. Milton Street, Spokane
The elegant John A. Finch School was designed by two of Spokane’s most influential architects during the time of its creation. Architects Julius Zittel and George Rasque worked tirelessly on the building to create a lasting and monumental structure dedicated to the children’s education, accurately decorated with the words “Education is the Apprenticeship of Life” above the entrance.
Since its start in 1908, the school has changed across multiple occasions, with new rooms being added, but one thing remains the same — the John A. Finch School is still the home of some of our children’s education.
Five Mile Prairie Schoolhouse
8621 N. Five Mile Road, Spokane
The third time was the charm for Five Mile Prairie School, erected in 1939 and still in use today. The original Five Mile Prairie Schoolhouse was built in 1901 and was a one-room school, like Central Schoolhouse, that housed 14 students and one teacher. In 1912 this initial version of the school was torn down because it had become too small and was replaced with a three-story brick structure. The lifespan of this second structure only lasted for 26 years since it lacked basic amenities — there was no indoor plumbing or modern heating system.
It functioned as a school until 1970, after the failure of a bond levy. In 1972, the “People of the Preservation of the Five Mile Prairie Elementary” leased the old school building from the school district and utilized it for community meetings. In 1976, it was forced to close again as a community center due to increased costs. By 1976, the Mead School District was using the boarded-up building as a storage facility. It was utilized this way until 2004 when a district levy passed, and extensive renovation was done to the property. Since then, it has been used as an educational resource center for the Mead School District.
117 N Napa Street, Spokane
The McKinley School was built in 1902 in a neo-classical style by popular public school architect Loren Rand during the twentieth century. Today, it is still a substantially intact example of a turn-of-the-century elementary school building and one of the few that survives in Spokane and the region. When children actually enrolled in the school in 1903, it was quickly realized that the six-room school could not contain the number of children. The Spokane School Board responded by authorizing a nine-room addition that same year. It comfortably held 700 students for a while as a junior high then later as an elementary school. That was until 1962 when declining enrollment forced the closure of the school.
In 1965, the Spokane School District sold the McKinley School to a transfer company at public auction, and since that time, it has served as a parking lot for trucking vehicles. The school’s gymnasium has since been turned into a machine shop. The new owners have worked to preserve the building and hope to adapt it for reuse as a community center.
Though some of these schools may no longer serve the children of our community, it’s nice to see that all of Spokane’s historic schools still educate in one way or another. They are still there; showcasing our history, how far we’ve come and how far we are still going to go.