Washington Water Power Start
Washington Water Power, now known as Avista, has been in the Spokane area since the late 1800’s. It has grown a lot since then. In the beginning, it was the area's first major producer of electricity. Over time, it grew and went through many changes. Today, it is the Inland Northwest’s major producer of power. Many of its original buildings still stand today.
Ten men used the Spokane River to make Washington Water Power, to generate electricity. It was founded on March 1889. In August 1889 a fire wiped out thirty city blocks down town. The fire didn’t stop Washington Water Power, they used any wire they could find to provide power to the buildings still standing. In 1890 Washington Water Power began producing electricity at its Monroe street power station. Washington Water Power was doing well, but that was just the beginning.
Within twenty years they had built six hydroelectric power plants on the Spokane River. They were the Post Falls, Upper Falls, Monroe Street, Nine Mile, Long Lake, and Little Falls power plants. They also began taking over smaller electrical plants in the area. Now Washington Water Power could provide steam, heat, and power to downtown Spokane. The company went from generating 8000 kW to more than 200,000 kW. Now they could provide more electricity at a lower price. Other companies could not compete and Washington Water Power was able to take over the Inland Northwest.
Washington Water Power wasn’t just successful as an electric company; they also used new inventions that are still used today. For instance, in 1903 they built a heavy-duty long distance electric transmission. It was one of the longest and heaviest transmission lines in the world; carrying sixty thousand volts one hundred miles though mountains. Lloyd Copeman designed the first automatic control for the electric range. Guy Arthur invented the automatic electric water heater.
Washington Water Power did other great things for the city of Spokane. In 1904 Washington Water Power donated twenty-eight acres of land to Spokane’s South Hill area for a park. The park still exists today as Manito Park, and recently celebrated its one hundredth anniversary. Washington Water Power also donated land to Twickenham Park in 1893. In 1895, it became known as Natatorium Park. They added rides, attractions, and concessions to the park; and they owned this park until 1929.
Washington Water Power/Avista has gone from a Spokane water power station to an inland northwest water power station. Over the years it has grown by buying and building electrical plants along the Spokane River. They also bought small electrical companies in other areas like farm communities. Washington Water Power was a huge part of the growth of Spokane. They provided affordable electricity for everyone.
Photos used with permission from Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture/ Eastern Washington State Historical Society.
copyright (c) 2007, Discovery School.
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Created: August 24, 2007
Last Modified on July 29, 2011