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50 years ago, Spokane’s downtown was reshaped by the World’s Fair


Apr 3, 2024

Spokane leaders sought advice from Seattle, who had previously hosted a fair in 1962, and were encouraged to pursue the idea of a world’s fair. They received pledges of $1.3 million in start-up funds from Spokane businesses and nearly $12 million in state tax dollars from the Washington Legislature to build the Washington State Pavilion, which would later become the Spokane Opera House and Convention Center.

To prepare the fair site, the Spokane City Council implemented an unpopular business and occupation tax which raised $5.7 million to tear out the railroad tracks. In October 1971, President Richard M. Nixon officially sanctioned Expo ’74, and a Spokane delegation received the Bureau of International Expositions’ unanimous approval in Paris as an official “special exposition.”

Washington’s Congressional delegation was instrumental in securing an $11.5 million appropriation to build the U.S. Pavilion, and city officials successfully negotiated with Spokane’s three railroads to donate 17 acres of land valued at millions of dollars and relocate their routes away from downtown.

Expo ’74 organizer King Cole was tasked with attracting participants from around the world and was successful in securing commitments from countries such as the Soviet Union, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Canada, Australia, Iran, West Germany, and the Philippines. Corporate pavilions were also secured from companies like Ford, General Motors, General Electric, Eastman Kodak, Boeing, and the Bell systems, as well as from the states of Oregon and Montana, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

By editor

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