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Restaurant, pub envisioned for old schoolhouse in Vinegar Flats

August 25, 2018

A Spokane schoolhouse that closed its doors 60 years ago is back on track to become a restaurant and pub, according to permits issued by the city.

The historic Lowell School, 2225 S. Inland Empire Way, hasn’t welcomed students since 1954, but it remains a landmark in the Vinegar Flats part of town in the Latah-Hangman neighborhood.

Lynda Peterson, who purchased the building in 2005 for $340,000, began work to convert the 6,000-square-foot structure into a neighborhood gathering spot in 2011, but its renovation has sputtered along because she didn’t want to go too far into debt on the project.

“I’d already laid in a lot of money and I’m by myself,” said Peterson, who is part owner of Dick’s Hamburgers and Frankie Doodle’s restaurant. “I didn’t want to make a major loan on it.”

The original Lowell School – named for James Russell Lowell, the American philosopher, educator and poet – opened in 1899 and a decade later had 56 students. It was replaced in 1919 by the current building, a four-room brick-and -oncrete structure, for a cost of $18,900.

The old prairie school building was part of the thriving Vinegar Flats area of the city, a name derived from local apple farmers delivering their harvests to a plant there to be made into vinegar in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A community of homes and small farms blossomed in the valley, leading to the need for the schoolhouse.

By 1933, there were just three teachers and 71 students. The school closed and the students were transferred to Irving School. In 1940, the school housed National Youth Administration classes, a New Deal program. A technical-vocational school occupied a portion of the building until 1941, when it closed again.

In 1943, the school reopened with 57 students and by 1945 enrollment had risen to 124. Within a decade, the student population dropped to 39 and the building closed again.

Since then, it’s traded hands a few times, sat vacant some and, now, has chance at another public life.

Permits issued by the city cover $350,000 worth of work paving a parking lot behind the building, as well as a terrace, which Peterson said would be done before winter. As for the restaurant’s opening, Peterson was wary to predict.

“Hopefully by next year,” she said. “We need to make some decisions on what we want to do down there.”

The project’s general contractor is Construction Management and Forensics Engineering, of Spokane. The architect is R.E.J. Designs, also of Spokane.

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