Then and Now: Blalock Building
John B. Blalock, born in 1856 in Sevier County, Tennessee, was one of Spokane Falls’ early settlers, arriving in 1879 after stops in Oregon and Walla Walla. At that time, Spokane Falls was a small village of 40 people and a few cabins. He opened a shoe repair shop in the second story of the store built by city father James Glover. He had learned the trade of shoemaker, and he supplemented inventory with goods he bought from a bankrupt business in Colfax.
In 1880, he built his own small building for his shop on what is now Spokane Falls Boulevard. With judicious saving and savvy investing, he parlayed that small building into another to be rented out.
Blalock married Martha “Mattie” Hyde in 1884. Hyde was one of the first public school teachers, teaching first through eighth grades in 1882-1883. School records before that are sketchy.
In 1886, Blalock sold his shoe business to focus on land development. He partnered with Rollin C. Hyde and built what may have been the city’s first four-story building, wood framed, at Howard and Riverside, which was leased to the First National Bank. They replaced it in 1888 with a three-story brick bank building.
Then came the Great Fire of 1889. It wiped out everything. But like many other plucky real estate people in Spokane, he was determined to start over. Right after the fire, he began construction on a six-story hotel and retail block he called the Blalock Building at Washington Street and Sprague Avenue. For most of its life, the upstairs was a residential hotel. The longest tenured was the Halliday Hotel.
The ground floor contained a series of cafes, drugstores and retail stores that served the downtown residents.
The building was damaged by fire, possibly the same one that destroyed the old Ridpath Hotel in 1950.
The Ridpath was rebuilt and reopened in 1952.
The Blalock was roofed over and the upper floors closed off. In 1971, the owners of the Ridpath bought the mostly empty hulk and tore it down to a single story, leaving just the street level.
John Blalock died in 1931. Wife Mattie Blalock died in 1927.